Treatment of high cholesterol

Changing your lifestyle including your diet and getting more active can help treat high cholesterol, but you may also need medication. Find out more.

Many people can reduce their cholesterol by switching to healthy foods and moving more – walking, going to the gym or taking the stairs instead of the lift. And cutting back on alcohol and stopping smoking definitely help.

Find out more about preventing high cholesterol.

But if your cholesterol level hasn't dropped after a few months, you may need medication to lower your cholesterol.

Taking medication for your cholesterol

If you have diabetes and are over the age of 40 or have existing cardio vascular disease (CVD) and are younger than 40, you will almost certainly benefit from taking a statin to reduce your CVD risk.

Statins reduce cholesterol production in the liver as well as having a number of other effects.

Your doctor or nurse is likely to start you on a medicine called atorvastatin, and usually at 20mg. If you think you are experiencing any side effects that are troublesome, talk to the doctor in charge of your care.

Your dose may need to be adjusted or you may need a different type of statin.

Other medicines which may be used, but are not as common, include:

  • Ezetimibe, which blocks the absorption of cholesterol from food and bile juices in your intestines into your blood.
  • A bile acid sequestrant or a fibrate, which binds to bile acids in the intestine and stops them being reabsorbed so the body has to use cholesterol to make more bile acid.
  • Alirocumab or evolocumab, which is injected every two weeks to help the liver remove cholesterol from the blood.

Treatment for children

The treatment for children with familial (or inherited) hypercholesterolaemia is different. Children should always see a specialist doctor, who will look at things such as family history, their age and cholesterol level.

Find out more about diabetes treatment for children and young people.