Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cholesterol & Triglycerides Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

Lower Cholesterol to Reduce Heart Disease Risk

(continued)

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
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
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.

Combination drugs
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)
  • Heartburn
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • 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.

 

 

1|2|3

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on May 28, 2014
Next Article:

Lower your cholesterol numbers with must-read tips from WebMD direct to your inbox (emailed bi-monthly).

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

Get the latest Cholesterol Management newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

cholesterol lab test report
Article
Compressed heart
Article
 
Compressed heart
Article
chocolate glazed donut and avocado
SLIDESHOW
 
Heart Foods Slideshow
Slideshow
Cholesterol Fact or Fiction
Quiz
 
Food & Fitness Planner
TOOL
Attractive salad
ARTICLE
 
Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
worst sandwich slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Fat Foods Fit Foods
SLIDESHOW
Bad Cholesterol
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections