cholesterol medicine

Have you ever been diagnosed with high cholesterol and looking for cholesterol medicine to lower it? Usually your health care provider may ask you to change your lifestyle to control your cholesterol levels through diet and exercise. However, sometimes diet and exercise are just not enough and you may need to take cholesterol medicine. Sometimes, your diet and exercise are not just to blame and high cholesterol is a genetic disorder and no matter how hard you take to lower your cholesterol through diet and exercise, they just don’t help that much.  If that’s the case, you need to take cholesterol medicine. There are several cholesterol medicines out there to help lower your cholesterol.

Sometimes cholesterol  medicines are needed in addition to a low-fat, high-fiber diet to lower cholesterol.

Cholesterol is an important part of your cells and building block of some hormones. The liver makes all the cholesterol the body needs. But cholesterol also enters your body from dietary sources, such as animal-based foods like milk, eggs, and meat. Too much cholesterol in your blood can lead to coronary artery disease like heart attack, high blood pressure etc.

The first line of treatment for high cholesterol is usually to eat a diet low in saturated and trans fats, and high in fruits and vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and to increase exercise. But for some, these changes alone are not enough to lower blood cholesterol levels. These people may need medicine, in addition to making lifestyle changes, to bring their cholesterol down to a safe level.

Cholesterol-lowering medicines include:

  • Statins

    * Niacin
* Bile-acid resins
* Fibric acid derivatives
* Cholesterol absorption inhibitors

Cholesterol-lowering medicine is most effective when combined with a healthy diet and exercise.

How Do Statins Work?

Statins are the medicines used the most often to treat high cholesterol, and they often work the best. They can reduce the risk for heart attack, stroke, and early death in people who are at high risk for a heart attack or stroke. Other medicines also lower cholesterol, and some may be used to lower triglycerides or raise HDL. Statins block the production of cholesterol in the liver itself. They lower LDL, the "bad" cholesterol, and triglycerides, and have a mild effect in raising HDL, the "good" cholesterol. These medicines are the first line of treatment for most people with high cholesterol. Side effects can include intestinal problems, liver damage, and in a few people, muscle tenderness.
Examples of statins include:

  • Crestor
  • Lipitor
  • Lescol
  • Mevacor
  • Pravachol
  • Zocor

 How does ZETIA work?
ZETIA works differently. The most common cholesterol-lowering medicines, statins, are a good option. They work mainly with the liver. Not ZETIA. It works in the digestive tract, like some other medicines. But ZETIA is unique in the way it helps block the absorption of cholesterol that comes from food. Unlike some statins, ZETIA has not been shown to prevent heart disease or heart attacks.

ZETIA complements what you are already doing—whether it’s dieting and exercising alone or also taking a statin.
Important Risk Information About ZETIA
ZETIA is a prescription medicine and should not be taken by people who are allergic to any of its ingredients. ZETIA can be taken alone or with a statin. Statins should not be taken by women who are nursing or pregnant or who may become pregnant, or by anyone with liver problems. If you have ever had liver problems or are pregnant or nursing, your doctor will decide if ZETIA alone is right for you. Your doctor may do blood tests to check your liver before you start taking ZETIA with a statin and during treatment.

Unexplained muscle pain or weakness could be a sign of a rare but serious side effect and should be reported to your doctor right away. In clinical studies, patients reported few side effects while taking ZETIA. These included diarrhea, joint pains, and tiredness.

How Does Nicotinic Acid Work?

Nicotinic acid is a B-complex vitamin. It’s found in food, but 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. Examples of nicotinic acid medication include:

  • Nicolar and Niaspan

How Do Bile Acid Resins Work?

These medicines work inside the intestine, where they bind to bile from the liver and prevent it from being reabsorbed into the circulatory system. Bile is made largely from cholesterol, so these medicines work by depleting the body’s supply of cholesterol. The most common side effects are constipation, gas and upset stomach. Examples of bile acid resins include:

  • Questran and Questran Light
  • Colestid
  • WelChol

How Do Fibrates Work?

Fibrates reduce the production of triglycerides and can increase HDL cholesterol. Examples of fibrates include:

  • Atromid
  • Tricor
  • Lopid

Ezetimibe lowers bad LDL cholesterol. Its a new class of cholesterol-lowering medicine that works to stop cholesterol absorption in the intestine.

What Are the Side Effects of Cholesterol-Lowering Medicines?

The side effects of cholesterol-lowering medicines may include:

  • Unexplained muscle pain or weakness
  • Abnormal liver function
  • Allergic reaction like skin rashes
  • Heartburn
  • Dizziness
  • Stomachache
  • Constipation
  • No sexual desire

Are There Foods or Other Drugs I Should Avoid While Taking Cholesterol-Lowering Medicine?

You should not take different cholesterol-lowering medicines and anticoagulants at the same time. More than that, you should not drink grapefruit juice and limit fresh grapefruit usage while taking cholesterol-lowering medicnes, as it can interfere with the liver’s ability to metabolize these medicines.


Here is the detailed comparsion of cholesterol medicines. Each cholesterol medicine has its own possible side effects. Your doctor may suggest a single cholesterol medicine or a combination of cholesterol medicines. Here’s an overview of benefits, cautions and possible side effects for common classes of cholesterol medicines.

Medicine class and medicine names Expected Benefits Possible side effects and cautions
Altoprev (lovastatin)
Crestor (rosuvastatin)
Lescol (fluvastatin)
Lipitor (atorvastatin)
Mevacor (lovastatin)
Pravachol (pravastatin)
Zocor (simvastatin)
Decrease LDL and triglycerides; slightly increase HDL Constipation, nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, cramps, muscle soreness, pain and weakness; possible interaction with grapefruit juice
Bile acid binding resins
Colestid (colestipol)
Questran (cholestyramine sucrose)
Welchol (colesevelam)
Decrease LDL Constipation, bloating, nausea, gas; may increase triglycerides
Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
Zetia (ezetimibe)
Decrease LDL; slightly decrease triglycerides; slightly increase HDL Stomach pain, fatigue, muscle soreness
Combination cholesterol absorption inhibitor and statin
Vytorin (ezetimibe-simvastatin)
Decreases LDL and triglycerides; increases HDL Stomach pain, fatigue, gas, constipation, abdominal pain, cramps, muscle soreness, pain and weakness; possible interaction with grapefruit juice
Lofibra (fenofibrate)
Lopid (gemfibrozil)
TriCor (fenofibrate)
Decrease triglycerides; increase HDL Nausea, stomach pain, gallstones
Niaspan (prescription niacin)
Decreases LDL and triglycerides; increases HDL Facial and neck flushing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gout, high blood sugar, peptic ulcers
Combination statin and niacin
Advicor (niacin-lovastatin)
Decreases LDL and triglycerides; increases HDL Facial and neck flushing, dizziness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, chills; possible interaction with grapefruit juice
Omega-3 fatty acids
Lovaza (prescription omega-3 fatty acid supplement)
Decreases triglycerides Belching, fishy taste, increased infection risk

Most cholesterol medicines canlower cholesterol with some side effects, but effectiveness varies from person to person. If you decide to take cholesterol medicine, your doctor may recommend you to have periodic liver function tests to watch the medicine’s side effect on your liver. Also remember the importance of healthy lifestyle choices. Cholesterol medicine can help control your cholesterol — but your lifestyle is the most important..




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