/ Mar-Apr 2008
/ Cholesterol Treatment in the Elderly
Sandra Ray, Staff Writer
(Page 1 of 3)
The risks associated with
high cholesterol have been well-documented, yet
compliance with treatment schedules is still
low. In fact, more than 50 percent of Americans
have high cholesterol, yet only one in five
people are actively treating it through diet,
exercise or even medication. Among the elderly,
treatment compliance is low, even though the
benefits of these methods are widely known.
High cholesterol is one of
the main contributors to cardiovascular disease.
Strokes and heart attacks are common outcomes of
this disease, although lowered heart function
can also result. The World Health Organization
approximates that 20 percent of strokes and 50
percent of heart attacks are attributed to high
cholesterol. There are three types of
cholesterol or fat in the bloodstream, some of
it benefiting the body while others can be
dangerous if they are too high.
- LDL – also known as “bad”
cholesterol since it clogs arteries. Levels
about 70 mg/dl should be avoided and if the
level is higher, it should be actively treated.
- HDL – also known as “good”
cholesterol and can help the body by attaching
to the bad cholesterol, pushing it to the liver
where it can be filtered out of the body. Levels
of HDL cholesterol should be 60 mg/dl or higher.
- Triglycerides – While it
is not a form of cholesterol, it is also a form
of fat that should be kept to levels below 150
mg/dl. It can also clog arteries and cause
significant damage to the cardiovascular system.
The goal is to lower bad cholesterol, but also
to maintain high enough levels of good
cholesterol at the same time. For many people, a
combination of a healthy diet, increased
exercise, and weight loss can lower cholesterol.
For those who are not able to achieve a healthy
good/bad cholesterol ratio through these
methods, medication can be warranted.
Coronary Heart Disease:
Reason to Focus on Cholesterol Levels
Coronary Heart Disease
(CHD) is the leading cause of death among
individuals age 65 and older, contributing to
death in more than 84 percent of cases (American
Family Physicians, 2005). Even though a healthy
diet and exercise are helpful, many patients
with a diagnosis of CHD will need medication to
help lower bad cholesterol and increase the
level of good cholesterol.
One of the concerns among
physicians, however, is the low compliance rate
in the elderly population who are taking
cholesterol medication. It is important that not
only should the patient understand his or her
treatment plan, but caregivers who assist the
patient should understand the plan as well.
Caregivers Can Help with
Despite the type of
medications prescribed, it is important to take
them as directed by the physician. Some studies
note that medications that are prescribed to
treat symptom-less conditions, like high
cholesterol, are less likely to be taken as
directed. Patients, and some caregivers,
mistakenly think that because there are no
symptoms to a condition, the effect of taking
the medications is somehow diminished. In fact,
ignoring or treating these conditions
irregularly can prove devastating in the long