High Cholesterol Treatment -- What Works?
Safe, effective treatment for high cholesterol isn't hard -- but it can be confusing. Get the facts.
Medications as High Cholesterol Treatments continued...
As with any drug, there are side effects. They can cause muscle aches, an
increase in liver enzymes, and other issues. But the risks are low and it's
important to keep them in perspective.
"On one hand, statins can reduce your risk of death, heart attack, stroke
by 30-35%," says Sperling. "On the other, they pose a 1-2% risk of
generally mild side effects." The benefits are often worth the small risk,
Although they tend to be overshadowed by statins, other medicines are also
important high cholesterol treatments instead of, or in addition to, statins.
- Bile acid resins like Colestid, Lo-Cholest, Prevalite, Questran, and
WelChol. They stick to cholesterol in the intestines and prevent it from being
absorbed. They can lower LDL cholesterol by 15-30%.
- Ezetimibe (Zetia) blocks some of the cholesterol from being absorbed
by your body. It can lower LDL levels by 18-25%.
- Fibric acid like Antara, Atromid, Lopid, and Tricor. They reduce
your triglycerides and may give a mild boost to your HDL.
- Niacin, available as Niacor, Niaspan, and Nicolar. Niacin modestly lowers LDL cholesterol and
triglycerides and can raise HDL cholesterol at low doses. LDL
levels are usually cut by 5-15%.
- A combination medicine like ezetimibe with simvastatin (Vytorin)
which uses a statin to block production of cholesterol and ezetimibe to prevent
cholesterol from being absorbed.
Remember that medicines aren't right for everyone. Since they're often taken
for life, you and your doctor need to carefully discuss whether you should use
Do Alternative High Cholesterol Treatments Work?
While lifestyle changes and medicines have been shown to lower cholesterol
and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, the same can't always be said
for many alternative treatments. Some of the various supplements and herbs that
have been touted as high cholesterol treatments are garlic, policosanol, and
While a few studies of garlic have found a modest benefit, a recent study of
policosanol found no effect. However, none of these studies have been large
enough to be definitive, experts say.
Keep in mind that, unlike medications, herbal products are not regulated by
the FDA. They are not evaluated to see if they work. They could also interact
with other medicines you use.
"You just don't know what you're getting when you buy these
products," says Wong. So if you want to take an alternative high
cholesterol treatment, be sure to talk to your doctor.
Sticking to Your High Cholesterol Treatments
Many people find that their dedication to lowering their cholesterol fades
over time. When they're first diagnosed, they're gung ho. They go on a diet and
train like marathon runners. But after a few months, they get complacent. Their
low-cholesterol cookbooks gather dust and their gym membership card lies in a