Make taking cholesterol medication easier

Make taking cholesterol medication easier

For people with high cholesterol, taking medication as prescribed is crucial. Still, it can be a challenge to keep up with it all. These expert strategies can help you create a medication routine that fits your life.

Older woman reading the label on her cholesterol prescription

If you have high cholesterol, you might already know to limit certain foods, quit smoking, and carve out time for exercise. While lifestyle improvements play a pivotal role in keeping your cholesterol levels stable (and preventing a dangerous buildup of plaque in your arteries), the most important thing you can do to stay healthy is take your medications as prescribed by your doctor.  

Stick to these four steps to ensure your cholesterol medications work for you: 

Step 1: Learn about your prescriptions
When your doctor prescribes or reviews the medications you’re taking, it’s important to learn as much as you can about these drugs. Bring a notepad and a pen to your next appointment with these six questions written down:

  1. How exactly should I take the medicine? This includes the dose, the time to take it, and whether it’s better taken with or without food.
  2. If I forget to take a dose, what should I do?
  3. Should I watch out for any side effects?
  4. Will this medicine interact with any other drugs or supplements I’m taking? Are they dangerous to take together?
  5. How will I know if the medicine is working?
  6. Is there a generic version I can use to save money?

Step 2: Follow your doctor’s orders 
Take your medication exactly the way your doctor advises. Skipping a dose, taking a different amount, or stopping a prescription altogether can affect your cholesterol levels and raise your risk of a heart attack. Call your doctor if you think you’re experiencing any side effects. Ask your doctor how often you should be checked while taking cholesterol medicine.

Step 3: Try habit-stacking to remember your pills 
The easier it is to take your medications, the more likely you’ll use them properly. And cholesterol medications are no exception.

One simple tip: If you are taking more than just cholesterol medication, make an easy-to-read chart with the names of your medications and the times of day to take them. If possible, pair taking them with other daily habits, such as making your morning coffee, brushing your teeth, or feeding a pet. You can also set an alarm on your clock, phone, or computer. Ask your doctor if there is a certain time of the day you should take your cholesterol medication.

Keep your medications together in one place, out of reach of children. To avoid dealing with multiple pill bottles, try a pillbox that organizes your medications for each day of the week and the time of day you take them. Call your pharmacy to see if you can have your prescription automatically refilled (or mailed to you) to save time and money.

Step 4: Make healthy lifestyle tweaks
Cholesterol medications don’t take the place of exercising regularly, staying tobacco-free, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol, and following a healthy diet — all of which have been proven to reduce blood pressure and high blood sugar and slash your risk of a heart attack.

These smart moves could improve your life expectancy — an additional 14 years for women and 12.2 years for men, according to a study in the journal Circulation. Another study that tracked men ages 45 to 79 for 11 years found that following a healthy lifestyle lowered their risk of a heart attack by an astounding 86 percent.

Inspired to make some healthy upgrades in your own life? Talk to your health care team about what you can do to continue thriving for years to come.