Why is adherence to treatment important in dyslipidemia?

Medication will not work unless it is taken1. This may sound obvious, yet every second, a patient is not taking her medication properly. But what does it mean to be adherent?

Adherence is the degree to which a patient follows a doctor’s prescription2. As a patient suffering from dyslipidemia, being adherent means controlling your lipid levels. Put all the odds on your side:

  • Start treatment: If your lipid profile tests display worrisome results, it might be necessary to start the treatment (which should be discussed with your doctor). It is important to talk with the doctor so he/she can find the best treatment solution for you. You may discuss with the doctor:
    • The benefits/risks of the solution the doctor is offering
    • Your concerns
    • Challenges you may anticipate and solutions that may be found

Once you agree to a treatment, start it. It is the first step to your managing your condition.

  • Follow the instructions of the doctor in terms of dosage and frequency of medicine: lower dosages of the medicine can be inefficient; a higher dosage can be harmful. It is also important to take the medicine at the prescribed intervals: if the prescription is for seven pills a week, once per day, taking seven pills altogether in one day does not mean you’re following the treatment. If you missed a dose or you think you have difficulties in following the treatment in the right way, solutions always exist. Do not hesitate to contact your doctor to discuss them.
  • Take the treatment as long as it is prescribed. If the doctor prescribes you a treatment for an intended duration, it means that the medicine will be effective only if taken over that duration. Otherwise, it might be ineffective, harmful, or both. Some patients with dyslipidemia feel that the treatment is not adapted to them, which may indeed happen. If this is your case, do not stop treating yourself on your own. Talk to your doctor, and describe to him the situation. Alternatives always exist; you just need to find what is right for you. As dyslipidemia is very often asymptomatic, patients may decide to stop taking the treatment because they may believe that the cholesterol problem is over, while it is not. Regularly communicating with your doctor on the test results to follow up cholesterol levels is necessary to monitor them and make, together with your doctor, a treatment decision.

Besides, stopping the treatment may take away all the benefits that you have gotten so far. This means all the efforts you have made would have been for nothing.

Do not self-medicate. Medicines taken the right way may help you;
• medicines taken the wrong way may hurt you, as they may lead to: side effects
• development of new diseases

Remember that adherence not only means medication adherence. It also means adopting a healthy lifestyle (link to articles on diet and physical exercises). When a doctor prescribes you a medication and gives you lifestyle advice, it often means that the results of your cholesterol treatment may not be obtained unless you do both. For example, moderating consuming bad fats, alcohol, or excess sugar is key when you suffer from high levels of cholesterol5,6.

Adherence can save your money in dyslipidemia treatment

Adhering to treatment and controlling dyslipidemia is the best investment you can make (like all the investments in your health, for that matter). It can allow you to avoid some very handicapping health problems, such as heart failure or attacks. An OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) study calculated that 1 USD invested in buying and taking medicine can save you 4 USD of dealing with avoidable consequences in hyperlipidemia (high level of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood) setup4.

 Being adherent to the treatment is very important. Whenever you feel difficulties to manage the adherence, discuss them with your doctor. Together you will always find solutions to overcome the problems. And do not take any decision on your own concerning the treatment, as you may lose all the benefits of the treatment previously taken and you may harm yourself.

Manage your cholesterol, do not let it manage you

If you experience difficulties adhering to treatment, consult your doctor. Discuss with him the actions you can put in place to improve your treatment adherence. Do not start, discontinue or change a treatment without doctor’s prescription.

1. Lindenfeld J, Jessup M. ‘Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them’. Eur J Heart Fail 2017;19(11):1412-1413
2. Jimmy B, Jimmy J. Patient medication adherence: Measures in daily practice. Oman Med J 2011; 26(3): 155–9.
3. Kronish I, Ye S. Adherence to Cardiovascular Medications: Lessons Learned and Future Directions. Prog Cardiovasc Dis 2013; 55(6):590-600.
4. OECD. Investing in medication adherence improves health outcomes and health system efficiency. https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/social-issues-migration-health/investing-in-medication-adherence-improves-health-outcomes-and-health-system-efficiency_8178962c-en . Published 2020. Accessed October 30, 2020.
5. DiNicolantonio J, Lucan S, O’Keefe J. The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for Sugar Related to Coronary Heart Disease. Prog Cardiovasc Dis 2016;58(5):464-472.
6. American Addiction Centers, Alcoholism and Health Issues: Cholesterol, Triglycerides, the Liver, and More, https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/health-issues  Published June 2020, Accessed October 30, 2020.

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