Cholesterol is a waxy substance present naturally in your body cells. It is essential for various body functions, such as the production of vitamin D and some hormones.

However, excess cholesterol in your blood can increase the risk of cardiovascular disorders. It can build up on the vessel wall, blocking the arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.

To prevent the risk of these complications, your doctor may prescribe a statin, a class of drugs that aids in lowering cholesterol levels. Atorvastatin is the most common statin used for the management of dyslipidemia.

Let us understand more about cholesterol and how Atorvastain can help you if your cholesterol levels are high.

What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of fat produced naturally by the liver. It is an essential part of your cell wall. Cholesterol is also required by your body to produce certain hormones and vitamin D.

It travels from the liver to other body parts through blood and vice versa. As it is non-soluble in water, it travels in your blood with the help of substances known as lipoproteins. These substances are made up of protein and fat and carry triglycerides and cholesterol.

There are two main types of lipoproteins in your body:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): They carry cholesterol from the liver to your body cells. As it promotes cholesterol build-up in your blood vessels, cholesterol bound to LDL is known as LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) or bad cholesterol.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL): This lipoprotein promotes the removal of excess cholesterol by carrying it from your cells to the liver, where it is metabolized. Cholesterol bound to this lipoprotein is known as HDL-cholesterol (HDL-C) or good cholesterol. 

A balance between LDL-C and HDL-C is essential for the functioning of cells. However, if the LDL-C builds up in your vessel wall, it may narrow and stiffen them, resulting in a condition known as atherosclerosis.

In this article, high cholesterol levels will refer to high levels of LDL-C to make things simple.

Cholesterol Levels Normal Cholesterol by Age

Your doctor can advise a simple blood test to know your cholesterol levels.

Normal levels depend on your age.

Adults

Total cholesterol levels:

  • Normal: Less than 200 mg/dL
  • Borderline high: Total cholesterol level between 200 and 239 mg/dL
  • High: Total cholesterol level of 240 mg/dL and above

LDL cholesterol levels:

  • Normal: Less than 100 mg/dL
  • Borderline high: 130—159 mg/dL
  • High: 190 mg/dL or higher

HDL cholesterol levels:

  • Normal: 60 mg/dL or higher
  • Borderline low: 41— 59 mg/dL
  • Low: Less than 40 mg/dL

Children

Total cholesterol levels:

  • Normal: Less than 170 mg/dL
  • Borderline high: Total cholesterol level between 170 and 199 mg/dL
  • High: Total cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL and above

LDL cholesterol levels:

  • Normal: Less than 110 mg/dL
  • Borderline high: 110—129 mg/dL
  • High: 130 mg/dL or higher

HDL cholesterol levels:

  • Normal: 45 mg/dL or higher
  • Borderline low: 40— 45 mg/dL
  • Low: Less than 40 mg/dL

Causes and Symptoms of High Cholesterol

Abnormal cholesterol levels or dyslipidemia is a silent condition and usually has no symptoms. The only way to know is getting your cholesterol levels tested.

Causes

Some common causes for high cholesterol levels are:

  • Regular consumption of foods rich in saturated fats, cholesterol, and trans fats
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Genetics
  • Other health conditions such as hypothyroidism and diabetes
  • Obesity or overweight

How Does Atorvastatin Work in Controlling Bad Cholesterol? 

Atorvastatin belongs to a class of drugs called statins or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. 

This medicine work in two ways to lower your cholesterol levels:

  • It blocks the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, responsible for cholesterol production, by binding at their active site. By reducing the production of cholesterol, it lowers the amount of cholesterol in your blood.
  • Atorvastatin also aids in reabsorbing the cholesterol present in your blood vessel. Cholesterol is essential for various functions such as making hormones, digesting food, and absorbing vitamin D. So, statins do not lower your cholesterol level. It reabsorbs the excess cholesterol present in your blood vessels in the form of plaques.

It is seen that Atorvastatin can lower the LDL-C by 50% and boost HDL-C levels by 15%.

The effects can be seen within two to four weeks of taking Atorvastatin. 

Guidelines for Prescribing Atorvastatin

 Your doctor may prescribe Atorvastatin in the following cases:

  • You have risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high cholesterol levels, diabetes, or hypertension, or if you smoke.
  • You already have a cardiovascular condition due to blockage of the blood vessel. This includes strokes, heart attacks, or coronary artery diseases.
  • Your LDL-C levels are 190 mg/dL or higher.
  • Your LDL-C levels are between 70 and 189 mg/dL, and you have diabetes. This is especially true if you have other risk factors such as smoking or high blood pressure.

Use And Dosage

How to Use It

  • Take this medication orally once a day with or without food or as prescribed by your physician.
  • Take this tablet daily at the same time.
  • Follow all the instructions on the prescription label. 
  • Do not stop taking this combination abruptly without consulting your doctor.
  • If you happen to miss a dose of Atorvastatin, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. 
  • However, if it is almost time for the next dose, do not take the missed dose and continue with your next scheduled dose. 
  • Do not take a double dose to compensate for the missed dose. 

Symptoms of overdose are:

  • Gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Forgetfulness
  • Confusion
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme muscle weakness, pain, or tenderness
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Upper stomach pain
  • Yellowing of the whites of your eyes or skin

If you have any of the mentioned symptoms, seek medical help immediately. 

Dose

The mentioned dose is for general use. Your doctor may decide to alter the dose based on your condition.

Some factors that can help your doctor to decide a dose are:

  • Age
  • Health condition
  • Severity of your problem
  • Other medical conditions
  • Response to the medicine

Atorvastatin is available in the following strengths: 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg

  • Adult dose: The beginning dose is 10–20 mg/ day. The maintenance dose can be between 10–80 mg/day.
  • Child dose: It is approved for use in children to manage heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. The recommended dose is 10 mg/day
  • Senior dose: You may have a different dose or schedule based on your kidney function and the presence of other health conditions.

Other Precautions – Dietary and Lifestyle

Diet and your lifestyle are also major contributors to cholesterol levels. The good news is that making changes in the same can help manage dyslipidemia.

Here are some changes that can help:

Eat A Healthy Diet

Having healthy food items can help in lowering LDL as well as improving HDL levels. Avoid food rich in saturated fats such as processed foods, red meat, and full-fat dairy items.

Besides, it is best to avoid foods rich in trans fats, such as fast foods, fried foods, and packaged foods.

Good options include fats from polyunsaturated or monounsaturated sources, including:

  • Avocados
  • Fatty fish such as tuna, sardines, salmon, trout, and herring
  • Oils such as olive, safflower, grapeseed, and sunflower oils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Soybeans

While some amount of cholesterol is healthy, its consumption should be limited. So, limit the intake of foods rich in cholesterol, such as lobster, organ meats, cheese, and egg yolks.

Also, be mindful of your sugar intake and the flour you consume. Try and stick to whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat, and oatmeal. Whole grains are rich in fiber that aids in removing excess cholesterol from the body.

Lastly, add more fruits, vegetables, and protein such as beans, chicken, and tofu to your diet.

Be Active

Exercise is beneficial for your overall health. It can also boost your HDL-C levels. Try and get 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises a day for at least five days or 150 minutes a week.

Some examples of exercise include swimming, running, walking, and jogging. 

You can also include strength training with exercise bands, weights, or body-weight resistance for two days a week.

Maintain A Healthy Weight

Obesity is a risk factor for high cholesterol levels and its associated complications. If you are overweight, losing about five to ten pounds may help improve your cholesterol levels.

Quit Smoking

You may be aware that smoking is harmful to health. The chemicals in cigarettes increase the risk of lung diseases and cancer. They are also dangerous for your blood vessels and may damage them. Smoking also promotes the accumulation of plaque in your blood vessels.

Final Thoughts

High cholesterol level is a silent condition and monitoring their levels is the only way to know if your levels are normal or not. Abnormal levels can cause complications such as heart attack if left unattended. But the good news is, you can manage high cholesterol levels with lifestyle modifications and medications such as Atorvastatin. 

Atorvastatin removes excess cholesterol from your body, improving its levels and protecting you from cardiovascular complications.

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