Hypertension is commonly referred to as the silent killer. However, high cholesterol (total serum cholesterol >200) is a very important risk factor for atherosclerotic heart disease. In the 1950’s, high cholesterol was not even recognized as a cause of strokes and heart attacks. Now, we know that almost one million people a year die from heart attacks and strokes. We also now know that there are different kinds of cholesterol: good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL).
Evidenced-based medicine acknowledges that lower levels of cholesterol result in less heart attacks and strokes. There have been many research trials, such as the 4S study in Scandinavia, that using medications such as statins (they block the production of cholesterol) result in 39% less heart attacks and over 20% less strokes compared to placebo. Other medicines are also used to lower cholesterol, such as Welchol (which blocks the intestinal absorption of cholesterol), is also extremely safe and ideal for young women considering pregnancy.
In general, these medications are very safe, contrary to the media which scares the public into taking these medicines. We cannot forget about diet (less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day) and exercise which can be very effective means of lowering our cholesterol. NCEP.org is a valuable website for more information on high cholesterol.