Is your cholesterol level too high? Here are some resources to help you.

6 min read

A demonstrator heart to visualize the anatomy of a real heart, with red vessels for arterial blood and blue vessels for venous blood.

Why worry about "cholesterol" when you don't feel sick?

It's sometimes hard to understand why we need to be concerned about our cholesterol levels. We have no symptoms and we're fine, so why worry?

Because "bad cholesterol", or "high cholesterol", represents an overabundance of bad fats (lipids) in the blood, which can deposit and form plaques and fatty deposits on the artery walls. These deposits put us at risk of heart disease, such as angina and heart attack (infarction), and stroke.

The importance of prevention

Because these health problems are all too common, and can occur fairly early in adulthood, they are responsible for major upheavals in the lives of those affected, with a burden of symptoms, reduced quality of life, disability and loss of independence, and sometimes even death.

That's why it's so important to work to prevent them, before they make us sick!

Fortunately, a modifiable (or controllable) risk factor, such as bad cholesterol, is one you can do something about. Other controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease include smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, being overweight or obese, and a sedentary lifestyle.

If you're taking your first steps in dealing with this invisible enemy

Talking to your healthcare professional about high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease can be confusing or unsatisfying. You may feel ill-equipped or uninformed on the subject, and health professionals often lack the time to answer all your questions.

Fortunately, there are many resources and tools available to help you help yourself, gain confidence and take charge of your cardiovascular health. Your challenge is probably to find reliable resources among the abundance of content on the web. This article will help you in four ways:

  • Know where to find clear, reliable advice and information on high cholesterol and treatment options.

  • Better understand what puts you at risk of cardiovascular disease, your current level of risk, and the suitability of one or more treatment options, pharmacological or otherwise, and their possible impact on your health.

  • Learn how to integrate healthy lifestyle habits, such as healthy eating, into your daily routine.

  • Discover how to optimize your medication management.

To answer these questions, a group of Quebec pharmacists has created a list of resources for you, with the support of TherAppX for the evaluation of suggested health apps. In the following sections, you'll find a selection of the best resources and tools, divided according to your needs.

Learn the basics of cholesterol management

To get off on the right foot, you need a minimum of clear knowledge on the subject. With this resource from the Heart+Stroke Foundation, you'll get the explanations you need, find out who should be tested for cholesterol, and understand important lifestyle elements that can help or hinder your cardiovascular health: How to manage your cholesterol.

For those who like numbers and pictures: Understanding your risk

To properly interpret your cholesterol blood test results, your healthcare professional will need to establish your cardiovascular risk. The recommendations based on your result will then be tailored to your personal risk level.

Calculating your cardiovascular risk, with the help of your healthcare professional, has several advantages: first and foremost, it allows you to know and better understand your chances of suffering from heart or blood vessel disease over the next 10 years.

A tool can help make this risk value more concrete: the tool illustrates how many of 100 people, with a risk level identical to yours, will develop cardiovascular disease. It also shows how many people in this group will avoid cardiovascular disease if they implement lifestyle changes or take medication.

To do this, consult the INESSS decision-support tool. Although normally completed with your professional, the tool is easy to use if you have your blood test results at hand.

Take your first steps towards a healthy lifestyle

Good news! Since there are many controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease, there are many ways to improve your health and reduce your risk of future heart disease and stroke.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that you:

  • Adopt a healthy, balanced diet;

  • Cook and eat at home more often, and save the restaurant for special occasions;

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight;

  • Exercise regularly;

  • Live smoke-free.

As we often say, making certain dietary choices, getting 150 minutes of moderate-to-high-intensity physical activity a week and quitting smoking are all good ways of significantly reducing your risk level.

To help you make the right choices when cooking and eating, there are two types of diet that have been scientifically proven to reduce cardiovascular risk. Here are some useful resources to help you find out more:

  • This webpage from Diabetes Québec explains the Mediterranean Diet benefits, key foods and examples of Mediterranean-style menus. Their modified pyramid suggests consumption frequencies for certain foods. The aim is not to limit or prevent ourselves from consuming anything, but rather to prioritize certain foods in our daily lives;

  • This web leaflet provides information on the Portfolio diet, approved by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society. Foods are grouped into 5 food groups for which there is evidence of cholesterol lowering. You can incorporate one group at a time into your diet, and then add a new group at a time, to get even more cholesterol-lowering benefits.

For those who want to go one step further with interactive apps or digitally-assisted professional guidance

Sidekick Health is an innovative application that offers you personalized health programs for an engaging and effective experience. It helps you achieve your health goals, manage your medical conditions and improve your quality of life.

Features include progress tracking in areas such as nutrition, physical activity, stress management and sleep quality, and data integration from your connected devices. You’ll also get a community for social support, a variety of educational resources and the option to create personalized medication reminders.

application icon
Sidekick Health
Sidekick Health AB
apple is available for this applicationandroid is available for this application

KoalaPro is a tracking application that lets you monitor various parameters related to weight management. The app offers a variety of key functionalities, including weight, physical activity and calorie consumption tracking, the ability to share your data with healthcare professionals and, if needed, a referral to private nutritionists (in Quebec).

This app is developed by a network of nutrition clinics; keep in mind that you remain free to choose your nutrition professional even if you opt for this app.

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EquipeSante Inc
apple is available for this applicationandroid is available for this application

The Cardiovascular Risk Calculator™ will enable you, with the help of your professional, to calculate your cardiovascular risk level.

The app also offers content on possible options for achieving targeted lipid levels.

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CardioRisk Calculator
The University of British Columbia - Okanagan
apple is available for this applicationandroid is available for this application

What if you want to better manage your medication?

Your healthcare professional may suggest you take a medication, especially if you already suffer from cardiovascular disease or diabetes, or if your calculated risk or bad cholesterol levels are very high.

The most commonly prescribed group of drugs are statins, as they are usually safe and effective.

In addition to the applications offered by pharmacy chains and banners to help you with your refills (ask your pharmacy for more information), here are 2 apps that can help you if you have medication to take.

MyTherapy is a medication management app that helps you take your medication on time and at the right dose. It offers customizable reminders, compliance and medication history tracking, the ability to share this information with your caregivers or clinician, and integration with Apple Health.

apple is available for this applicationandroid is available for this application
In-app purchases

Medisafe is a medication management application that lets you manage multiple medications and track your remaining quantities. It offers reminders and notifications, compliance monitoring and the ability to share information with caregivers or clinician.

apple is available for this applicationandroid is available for this application
In-app purchases

Knowledge and tools for better cardiovascular health

I hope you now have a better understanding of why it's important to pay attention to your cholesterol levels, as well as your cardiovascular level of risk, and how you can calculate this risk and understand the impact of lifestyle changes or medication on it.

If you're getting ready to undergo a cholesterol screening test, or if you've already had one, whether the result was normal or not, you now have all the tools and resources you need to make sure you understand how you can improve your cardiovascular health, and how this can reduce your risk, and what you can do to achieve your goals!

Your health care professional can help you choose

Feeling confident is important. Get all the essential information about health apps by talking to your healthcare professional.

AppGuide provides reliable information about mobile health apps that allows patients and healthcare professionals to make informed, shared decisions about using a health app to track health status or act on your priority health goals.

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