(BPT) - Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’m feeling fine, what’s the harm in stopping my medication?” Well, if you’ve been prescribed a statin medication to help lower high cholesterol, you’re going to want to read on before stopping your treatment without consulting a healthcare provider. You can feel a cold, you can feel a broken toe, but you can’t feel your arteries clogging … until it might be too late.

When cholesterol levels are too high, it can build up within the walls of the arteries and can eventually block blood supply to the heart or brain altogether, potentially leading to a heart attack or stroke. Yet, more than half of all those on a statin treatment plan stop taking the prescribed medication within one year of starting treatment, often without first consulting a healthcare provider. While high cholesterol can’t be felt, statins work hard to help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease. So, this American Heart Month, talk openly with your doctor before stopping your statin treatment.

Despite the risks, people with high cholesterol stop taking their prescribed statin for a variety of reasons, and many do so without realizing there may be other options. Shockingly, roughly 79% of current statin users say they weren’t told or can’t remember being told by their healthcare provider that there are different types of statins available. Not all statins are metabolized the same way and even the same statin can be processed differently in the body from person to person. Age, medical history, current medications and ethnicity are all among the multiple factors you and your healthcare provider should consider when determining which statin option best meets your needs. Moral of the story: if you’re unhappy with one statin, there may be another statin that is better suited for you.

That said, sticking with a statin is only one part of the equation, as a heart-healthy lifestyle for those with high cholesterol means a nutritious diet and regular exercise, too. Let’s be clear — sticking with a doctor-prescribed statin is crucial, but it’s not a license to eat high-fat, high-cholesterol foods without consequence (fried chicken, anyone?). Skip the awkward dinner conversation with the know-it-all waiter and have a heart-to-heart with your healthcare provider to make sure you understand all the elements of a comprehensive treatment plan.

Navigating high cholesterol treatment doesn’t have to be daunting, and American Heart Month is the perfect time to get educated and stay ahead of your heart health. Visit TakeCholesteroltoHeart.com for all the resources you need, including tips to have a more productive conversation with your healthcare professional.

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