Lower Cholesterol to Reduce Heart Disease Risk
What Drugs Are Used to Treat High Cholesterol? continued...
Examples of statins include:
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- Fluvastatin (Lescol, Lescol XL)
- Lovastatin (Altocor, Altoprev, Mevacor)
- Pravastatin (Pravachol)
- Rosuvastatin (Crestor)
- Simvastatin (Zocor)
Niacin is a B-complex vitamin. It's found in food, but it is also available at high doses by prescription. It lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol. The main side effects are flushing, itching, tingling, and headache. Aspirin can reduce many of these symptoms. Speak with your doctor first, though, before taking aspirin. Research studies suggest that even though niacin may improve your cholesterol numbers, it does not appear to lower your risk of heart disease, especially if you are already taking a statin.
Bile Acid Sequestrants
These drugs work inside the intestine, where they bind to bile and prevent it from being reabsorbed into the circulatory system. Bile is made largely from cholesterol, so these drugs work by reducing the body's supply of cholesterol. That then lowers both total and LDL cholesterol. The most common side effects are constipation, gas, and upset stomach. Examples of bile acid resins include:
- Cholestyramine resin (Prevalite, Questran and Questran Light)
- Colesevelam (WelChol)
- Colestipol (Colestid)
Fibrates lower triglyceride levels and can increase HDL and lower LDL. It's thought that fibrates enhance the breakdown of triglyceride-rich particles and decrease the secretion of certain blood fats.
Examples of fibrates include:
- Fenofibrate (Lofibra, Tricor)
- Gemfibrozil (Lopid)
Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
Ezetimibe (Zetia) works to lower LDL by inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines. Vytorin is a drug that combines ezetimibe and a statin. It can decrease total and LDL cholesterol and raise HDL levels. Although ezetimibe may reduce your LDL cholesterol, research studies have not found that it reduces your risk of heart disease.
Some people with high cholesterol achieve the best results with combination drugs. These are pills that contain more than one medication to treat cholesterol problems, trigylceride abnormalities, or even high blood pressure. Some examples include:
What Are the Side Effects of Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs?
The side effect you need to be most concerned about is muscle aches. They could be a sign of a life threatening condition. If you have muscle aches, call your doctor immediately.
Other side effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs include:
- Abnormal liver function
- Allergic reaction (skin rashes)
- Abdominal pain
- Decreased sexual desire
- Memory loss
Are There Foods or Other Drugs I Should Avoid While Taking Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs?
Ask your doctor about the other drugs you are taking, including herbals and vitamins, and their impact on cholesterol-lowering medications. You should not drink grapefruit juice while taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. It can interfere with the liver's ability to metabolize these medications.