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What is cardiovascular disease?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a group of conditions that involve the heart and blood
vessels. Common complications include heart attack, chest pain (angina), or stroke.

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Stopwatch illustration — 37 seconds

One person dies about every
37 seconds from CVD in the US

CVD is the leading cause of death in the United States—more than all
deaths from cancer—and the number of lives lost is increasing.


It is estimated by 2030,
over 1 million people
the US could die each
year from CVD

Something has to change

For decades, there was a decrease in deaths from CVD, mainly due to new medication options and a better understanding of how lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise, affect heart health. However, in the past few years, there has been an increase in deaths from CVD, and that number is expected to get worse.

The good news is that we have the ability to reverse this alarming trend. How we approach CVD today can change the future for millions of people tomorrow.

Deaths from CVD, United States,
1999 to 2020

Chart - US deaths from CVD

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Together, we can save lives by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL-C)

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What is ASCVD?

Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) is a type of cardiovascular disease caused by
high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL-C) in the blood. This leads to the buildup of plaque on the
walls of the arteries, which over time can lead to heart attack or stroke.

What is bad
cholesterol (LDL-C)?

Bad cholesterol (also called LDL-C) is cholesterol that collects in the walls of the blood vessels. High
bad cholesterol (LDL-C) over time raises your risk for heart disease and stroke. Good cholesterol, or
HDL-C, on the other hand, carries cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver. A healthy
good cholesterol (HDL-C) level may lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.

What causes high bad cholesterol (LDL-C)?

The following factors can cause high bad cholesterol (LDL-C) and lead to ASCVD:

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Family history

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High-fat foods

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Regular blood tests from your doctor can help
detect high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL-C)

How can I lower bad cholesterol (LDL-C)?

There are steps you can take on your own to help lower your bad cholesterol (LDL-C). It's not
always easy, but making better food choices and staying active can improve your heart health.

What foods should I
eat if I have
high cholesterol?

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  • Fruits, like apples, pears, berries, melon, plums, and citrus fruits

  • Whole grains, like oatmeal, barley, rice, whole wheat, and other flours

  • Seafood, like salmon, tuna, sardines, trout, and other fish high in omega-3 fats

  • Low-fat or nondairy products, like skim milk, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese, and nut milk

  • Lean meat, like chicken without the skin

  • "Good fats," like olive oil, avocados, olives, and some nuts

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What foods should I eat less often if I have high cholesterol?

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  • "Bad fats," like fried food, red meat, whole-fat dairy, butter, and margarine

  • Sugar

  • Salt

How can I continue to eat healthy?

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Sticking to a healthy diet isn't easy, but there are some helpful tips to help you stay on track:

  • Shop in season—local and in-season produce is usually less expensive than imported produce

  • Be prepared—frozen and canned vegetables, meats, and seafood without added sugar or salt can help you prepare a healthy meal at any time

  • Plan meals—plan out your meals to be sure you're including the right foods every day

  • Pick your proteins—add a meatless meal to your week to focus more on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

  • Track recipes—when your family really enjoys a healthy meal, make a note to prepare it again

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What are some activities I can try today?

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Low-impact activities are a great way to get started on a daily routine. Even 10 minutes of brisk walking a few times a day is proven to be good for your heart. Some healthy activities include:

  • Yoga

  • Strength training, with or without weights

  • Tennis

  • Gardening

  • Bicycling

  • Swimming or water exercise

  • Elliptical trainer

  • Walking

What are some ideas for staying on track with exercise?

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The easiest way to stay on track is to choose activities that you enjoy. But there's more you can do to keep yourself motivated:

  • Exercise at the same time every day to make it part of your routine

  • Have an inside activity plan for bad weather

  • Exercise with someone else, so you can encourage and support each other

  • Have a few activities you enjoy, so you don't get bored always doing the same thing

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Every step toward a healthier you is a step in the right direction! The important thing is that you plan a program you can stick with. Your health care provider can help you decide which foods to eat and plan which activities are suitable for you.


ASCVD and the importance of lowering
bad cholesterol (LDL-C)

For people with ASCVD, high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL-C) increase the risk for heart attack or stroke, especially if those levels stay high over a long period of time. Lowering bad cholesterol (LDL-C) decreases the risk. It's important to keep bad cholesterol (LDL-C) at the recommended target of 70 mg/dL or lower to help manage ASCVD.


About 4 out of 5 people being treated for ASCVD are unable to lower their bad cholesterol (LDL-C) enough to meet the recommended target

Challenges in managing ASCVD

Lowering bad cholesterol (LDL-C) and keeping it low can be hard to do. Even with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and a daily pill called a statin, many people still struggle to lower their bad cholesterol (LDL-C) enough to manage ASCVD.

What are common challenges to lowering LDL-C?

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Changing lifestyle

  • You and your doctor have probably discussed changing your diet and increasing exercise to help lower bad cholesterol (LDL-C)

  • Even after the best efforts at making these lifestyle changes, many people still struggle to lower their bad cholesterol (LDL-C) enough. This is because in some people, genetics plays a role in determining high bad cholesterol (LDL-C)

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Sticking to treatment

Your doctor may have prescribed medicine for you to take every day to lower bad cholesterol (LDL-C). However, it can sometimes be difficult to stick to a daily treatment. Some common treatment challenges are:

  • Side effects like muscle aches can prevent some people from continuing treatment or staying on high doses of statins

  • Difficulty remembering to take their medicine every day can also prevent people from staying on treatment

After having these experiences, some may stop taking their medicine altogether out of frustration. It is important to speak to your doctor about any side effects or treatment challenges.

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Accessing other treatments

  • Some other treatments used for managing high LDL-C may be expensive or have insurance challenges

  • The inability to get medicines other than statins can prevent some people from being able to properly manage ASCVD and high bad cholesterol (LDL-C)

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Social and environmental factors

  • Factors such as income, education, and community resources can all play a role in and influence how well people are able to make lifestyle changes, follow treatment plans, and access medication and care

What you can do to manage ASCVD

To manage ASCVD and lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke, it is important to:

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Go to all follow-up appointments with your doctor

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Follow any diet and exercise instructions from your doctor

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Talk to your doctor about your health history, any challenges you are experiencing, and how often you need to have your LDL-C checked

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Make sure you are taking your medicine as directed by your doctor

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Ask a friend or loved one, or find a support group to help you stay on track

Finding a balance of treatment options and lifestyle changes can be difficult, but you don't
have to do it alone. Partnering with your doctor is important in managing ASCVD. Doing so is
a big step toward lowering your LDL-C and lowering your risk of heart attack or stroke.

You're not alone. We'll help you
stay motivated with tips and
tricks to lower bad cholesterol
(LDL-C) and fight CVD

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