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Statins Only Lower Cholesterol If You Take Them

Tell your doctor if you're not taking your meds, and use these tricks to tweak your routine

statins and medical chart

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An estimated 50 percent of people who are prescribed statins to lower their cholesterol stop taking them within a year. It makes sense: We hate taking pills, and high cholesterol has no symptoms. So if we don’t feel its effects, who cares if we forget to take our meds?

But for every year that your cholesterol remains out of control, your heart disease risk rises. One 2015 study found that for every 10 years that someone lives with borderline high cholesterol, his or her heart disease risk increases by nearly 40 percent.

America’s Got Talent judge Howie Mandel knows what it’s like to put yourself at risk unnecessarily. Diagnosed with high cholesterol 30 years ago, the 62-year-old stopped taking his pills within a few years of diagnosis. “I read that they could cause muscle aches,” he says, “and I’m a bit of a hypochondriac.” Instead of checking with his doctor, he just quit his statin. Today he’s back on one, but he admits he’s “running scared” because of the time he spent with his cholesterol way too high. Mandel’s advice: If you’re having trouble sticking to a statin, just talk with your doctor. He or she may be able to simplify or alter your regimen. And if you struggle to remember to take daily medications, try these simple tricks.

  • Keep your meds with your toothbrush. Make popping the pills part of your morning and/or nightly routine, so you do this automatically.
  • Get a digital assist. Smartphones have no qualms about bugging you every day.
  • Put extra pills into your carryall. Nothing can throw you off more than leaving medications at home when you travel. Make sure you’ve got extra packed at all times.
  • Keep your daily Rx in plain sight. Sure, pill bottles don’t make the nicest decorations, but storing them in drawers or cabinets adds another layer of difficulty.
  • Build yourself a “memory palace.” Memory palace refers to a method of visualization used by players in memory competitions. You visualize the thing you want to remember (like your statin) in a place you go to every day (like your front door). Now every time you reach the front door, you’ll be reminded to take your presecription.
  • Speak up. If it’s Tuesday, say out loud to yourself, “I’m taking Tuesday’s pills.” Later in the day, you’re more likely to remember whether you in fact took them.