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61 and have a raised cholesterol

Good afternoon. I am 61 years of age and I have had raised cholesterol for several years, which is controlled with regular daily medication. In the last 9 month I have been taking 20mg Rosuvastatin and 10mg Ezetrol (both 1 a day). Prior to that I was just on the one statin. In the last couple of months I have developed a continuous pain in my right elbow and it's become quite tender to touch. I am considering seeing my GP, but was wondering whether this could be aggravated by the drugs I'm taking. One of the side affects I've read is muscle pain. I just wondered what your thoughts were. Thank you.

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The answer

Thank you kindly for your question.

What is high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance known as a lipid and is necessary for the normal functioning of the body. It's mainly made by the liver, but can also be found in some foods. Having high level of lipids in your blood can have an effect on your health and increases your risk of serious health conditions like narrowing of the arteries, heart attack, stroke, transient ischaemic attack and peripheral arterial disease.

Cholesterol is carried in your blood by proteins. When the two combine, they're called lipoproteins. The two main types of lipoprotein are high-density lipoprotein (HDL) which is referred to as "good cholesterol" and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) which is known as "bad cholesterol." The amount of cholesterol in the blood – both HDL and LDL – can be measured with a blood test.

What causes high cholesterol?

Many factors can increase your chances of having heart problems if you have high cholesterol including an unhealthy diet, smoking, having diabetes or high blood pressure and having a family history of stroke or heart disease .

As a general guide, total cholesterol levels should be:

  • 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults
  • 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk

How to reduce your cholesterol

The first step in reducing your cholesterol is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet low in fatty food. You can swap food containing saturated fat for fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereals, do regular exercise and giving up smoking (if you smoke).

If these changes don't reduce your cholesterol your GP may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering medication, such as statins. Your GP will take into account the risk of any side effects from statins, and the benefit of lowering your cholesterol must outweigh any risks.

Cholesterol-lowering medication

There are several different types of cholesterol-lowering medication that work in different ways. The most commonly prescribed medications are Statins, these block the enzyme in your liver that helps to make cholesterol. Your GP will usually start you on a medication called atorvastatin. Other statins include simvastatin and rosuvastatin.

Side effects of statins include headaches, muscle pain and stomach problems, such as indigestion, diarrhoea or constipation.

Ezetimibe is a medication that blocks the absorption of cholesterol from food and bile juices in your intestines into your blood. It's generally not as effective as statins, but is less likely to cause side effects. You can take ezetimibe at the same time as your usual statin if your cholesterol levels aren't low enough with the statin alone. The side effects of this combination are generally the same as those of the statin on its own.

Based on the information we have provided about statin side effects above, we would definitely agree that seeing your GP as soon as you can is very important due to the continuous pain in your right elbow that you are experiencing that has become quite tender to touch. Your GP will take into account the risk of any side effects from statins, and the benefit of lowering your cholesterol and whether this outweighs any risks.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses  

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