Q&A: Education campaign raises awareness about cholesterol lowering

Karol Watson

HHS deemed May 13-19 Women’s Health Week to help women make healthy choices for themselves and their loved ones.

To coincide with Women’s Health Week, Kowa Pharmaceuticals America conducted the Take Cholesterol to Heart campaign, a national education campaign to combat high cholesterol, which affects more than 100 million Americans and is a major risk factor for heart disease.

According to a press release from Kowa, Take Cholesterol to Heart encourages people to speak frankly with their doctor about their personal challenges staying on statin therapy so they can develop strategies to stick with this lifesaving medication.

Cardiology Today discussed the merits of the campaign with Karol Watson, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a member of the Cardiology Today Editorial Board.

Artery Plaque
The Take Cholesterol to Heart campaign aims to raise awareness of high cholesterol
Photo credi: Shutterstock.com

 

Question: Why do you think the severity of high cholesterol is often overlooked when it affects so many people in the U. S.?

 

Answer: High cholesterol levels tend to be asymptomatic. You have no idea what cholesterol is doing inside your body, so many people don't even know their levels are high. As such, the No. 1 thing that everyone needs to be doing is to go to the doctor for a cholesterol test and know their levels. The second thing is, some people with elevated cholesterol think, “It's just high cholesterol, how important could that be?” They don't realize that high cholesterol is one of the most important risk factors for developing MI or stroke.

The cholesterol we have in our body is necessary for some important functions, like making our hormones or maintaining our cell membranes, but you only need a very small amount to do those things. Anytime the levels go higher than what’s needed for those basic functions, they can start depositing in places we don't want, like in the arteries leading into our brain, which can cause stroke, or in the arteries that lead to our heart, which can cause MI.

 

Q: How does the Take Cholesterol to Heart initiative tie in to National Women's Health Week and how does it help raise awareness for CV health among women in the U.S.?

 

A: The Take Cholesterol to Heart campaign offers educational tools for everyone to learn about high cholesterol and statin medication, which can be found at TakeCholesteroltoHeart.com. But what we know is that women are less likely to be treated for risk factors like high cholesterol. We hope that the education provided to women will have an even greater impact because those women will learn that they too could be at risk, and be motivated to talk to their doctor.

Q: What are some of the tips provided by the initiative that will help women manage their cholesterol?

 

A. One of the most important tips — and, in fact, the reason I got involved with Take Cholesterol to Heart — is don't just stop your statin. If your doctor thought it was important enough to start you on a statin, it’s imperative that you stick with it. Sometimes, people forget, or they set it aside while on vacation, and some people may even experience some side effects. But before you stop taking your statin on your own, it’s important that you talk to your doctor. There are multiple statins out there, and if you experience challenges with one statin, your doctor can help you find another that might be better for you. Again, don't just stop your statin without having a conversation with your doctor first.

 

Q: What are some of the ways women can self-monitor and manage their cholesterol?

 

A. One of the most important things that women can do is be their own advocates. That includes making sure you’re going to the doctor and getting appropriate testing for cholesterol, diabetes and all of the important risk factors we can modify. Second, women should do things that we know we can do ourselves to help modify cholesterol, like diet and exercise to help maintain a healthy weight. Third, know your risk. Many women are unaware that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., so they need to be aware of their heart disease risk factors whether or not there's a family history, whether or not you’re a healthy weight, whether or not you eat all the right foods. All of us are at risk.

 

 

Q. What are the best strategies for making sure patients stay on their statins?

 

A. In my opinion, the best strategy for making sure patients stay on a statin is to help them understand the reason their doctor put them on a statin in the first place and the risks of not taking their statin as prescribed. A lot of people think it’s just about making their numbers look better, but that's not all there is to it. Statins are one of the best medications we have for reducing the risk for MI, stroke and CV death. So, it's not just about making the numbers look better, it’s about potentially saving your life.

Additionally, it’s important for people to understand that they have multiple statin treatment options if they think they might be experiencing a side effect, or if they’re having challenges with the drug for one reason or another. I always tell my patients, “I can make sure you get on the right drug at the right dose for your unique needs, but don't just stop your statin.”

 

Q. What can physicians and patients do to become more active and participate in the initiative?

 

Anyone can go to the website TakeCholesteroltoHeart.com, where there are a number of educational resources. Patients can access useful resources like a “Discover Your Statin Status” questionnaire and a doctor discussion guide, which will help facilitate the conversation with their own doctor. You would be surprised at how many patients are reluctant to talk openly or don't know what to say or what to do, and we doctors really need as much information as we can get in order to offer to help them give our patients the best care possible. Keeping that conversation going with our health care providers is one of the most important things we can all do to protect our health.

 

For more information:

https://www.womenshealth.gov

www.TakeCholesteroltoHeart.com

 

Disclosure: Watson reports she serves on the speakers bureau for Boehringer Ingelheim and consults for Amgen and Boehringer Ingelheim.

Karol Watson

HHS deemed May 13-19 Women’s Health Week to help women make healthy choices for themselves and their loved ones.

To coincide with Women’s Health Week, Kowa Pharmaceuticals America conducted the Take Cholesterol to Heart campaign, a national education campaign to combat high cholesterol, which affects more than 100 million Americans and is a major risk factor for heart disease.

According to a press release from Kowa, Take Cholesterol to Heart encourages people to speak frankly with their doctor about their personal challenges staying on statin therapy so they can develop strategies to stick with this lifesaving medication.

Cardiology Today discussed the merits of the campaign with Karol Watson, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a member of the Cardiology Today Editorial Board.

Artery Plaque
The Take Cholesterol to Heart campaign aims to raise awareness of high cholesterol
Photo credi: Shutterstock.com

 

Question: Why do you think the severity of high cholesterol is often overlooked when it affects so many people in the U. S.?

 

Answer: High cholesterol levels tend to be asymptomatic. You have no idea what cholesterol is doing inside your body, so many people don't even know their levels are high. As such, the No. 1 thing that everyone needs to be doing is to go to the doctor for a cholesterol test and know their levels. The second thing is, some people with elevated cholesterol think, “It's just high cholesterol, how important could that be?” They don't realize that high cholesterol is one of the most important risk factors for developing MI or stroke.

The cholesterol we have in our body is necessary for some important functions, like making our hormones or maintaining our cell membranes, but you only need a very small amount to do those things. Anytime the levels go higher than what’s needed for those basic functions, they can start depositing in places we don't want, like in the arteries leading into our brain, which can cause stroke, or in the arteries that lead to our heart, which can cause MI.

 

Q: How does the Take Cholesterol to Heart initiative tie in to National Women's Health Week and how does it help raise awareness for CV health among women in the U.S.?

 

A: The Take Cholesterol to Heart campaign offers educational tools for everyone to learn about high cholesterol and statin medication, which can be found at TakeCholesteroltoHeart.com. But what we know is that women are less likely to be treated for risk factors like high cholesterol. We hope that the education provided to women will have an even greater impact because those women will learn that they too could be at risk, and be motivated to talk to their doctor.

PAGE BREAK

Q: What are some of the tips provided by the initiative that will help women manage their cholesterol?

 

A. One of the most important tips — and, in fact, the reason I got involved with Take Cholesterol to Heart — is don't just stop your statin. If your doctor thought it was important enough to start you on a statin, it’s imperative that you stick with it. Sometimes, people forget, or they set it aside while on vacation, and some people may even experience some side effects. But before you stop taking your statin on your own, it’s important that you talk to your doctor. There are multiple statins out there, and if you experience challenges with one statin, your doctor can help you find another that might be better for you. Again, don't just stop your statin without having a conversation with your doctor first.

 

Q: What are some of the ways women can self-monitor and manage their cholesterol?

 

A. One of the most important things that women can do is be their own advocates. That includes making sure you’re going to the doctor and getting appropriate testing for cholesterol, diabetes and all of the important risk factors we can modify. Second, women should do things that we know we can do ourselves to help modify cholesterol, like diet and exercise to help maintain a healthy weight. Third, know your risk. Many women are unaware that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., so they need to be aware of their heart disease risk factors whether or not there's a family history, whether or not you’re a healthy weight, whether or not you eat all the right foods. All of us are at risk.

 

PAGE BREAK

 

Q. What are the best strategies for making sure patients stay on their statins?

 

A. In my opinion, the best strategy for making sure patients stay on a statin is to help them understand the reason their doctor put them on a statin in the first place and the risks of not taking their statin as prescribed. A lot of people think it’s just about making their numbers look better, but that's not all there is to it. Statins are one of the best medications we have for reducing the risk for MI, stroke and CV death. So, it's not just about making the numbers look better, it’s about potentially saving your life.

Additionally, it’s important for people to understand that they have multiple statin treatment options if they think they might be experiencing a side effect, or if they’re having challenges with the drug for one reason or another. I always tell my patients, “I can make sure you get on the right drug at the right dose for your unique needs, but don't just stop your statin.”

 

Q. What can physicians and patients do to become more active and participate in the initiative?

 

Anyone can go to the website TakeCholesteroltoHeart.com, where there are a number of educational resources. Patients can access useful resources like a “Discover Your Statin Status” questionnaire and a doctor discussion guide, which will help facilitate the conversation with their own doctor. You would be surprised at how many patients are reluctant to talk openly or don't know what to say or what to do, and we doctors really need as much information as we can get in order to offer to help them give our patients the best care possible. Keeping that conversation going with our health care providers is one of the most important things we can all do to protect our health.

 

For more information:

https://www.womenshealth.gov

www.TakeCholesteroltoHeart.com

 

Disclosure: Watson reports she serves on the speakers bureau for Boehringer Ingelheim and consults for Amgen and Boehringer Ingelheim.