your cholesterol is at a dangerous level, lifestyle changes are often
recommended as the first line of treatment. Your lifestyle is what you can
control to help keep your cholesterol levels healthy. Medications can also help
lower cholesterol. For some people, diet and exercise alone can treat high
cholesterol. Others may have to rely on a combination of lifestyle changes and
medication to get their cholesterol down to a healthier level.
modifications combined with weight loss can lower “bad” LDL (low-density
lipoprotein) cholesterol. A heart-healthy diet promotes fruits, vegetables,
whole grains, and legumes. It limits intake of sugar, sodium, and saturated
fat. Anything that contains hydrogenated oil also contains trans fat and should
be avoided. What sets heart-healthy diets apart from others is the emphasis on
good fats, such as those found in fish, nuts, olive oil, avocados, and seeds.
When used in place of saturated and trans fats, these oils (polyunsaturated and
monounsaturated fats) can help reduce cholesterol. According to the Harvard Medical
School, some research also indicates that avoiding refined carbohydrates
may boost “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and lower
triglycerides. Refined carbohydrates include white rice, white bread, soft
drinks, and some baked goods.
who are obese (a body mass index more than 30) tend to have lower HDL cholesterol
and higher LDL cholesterol and triglycerides than people of normal weight. Whether
you are obese or simply overweight, losing weight can improve your cholesterol.
damages your blood vessels and speeds up the hardening of the arteries.
According to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it greatly increases your risk for heart disease,
including high cholesterol.
inactive can elevate LDL cholesterol. Exercise can help lower it. Moderate
activity like brisk walking can also help lower triglycerides. Vigorous
exercise like running can boost HDL cholesterol. Cardiovascular exercise can
also strengthen your heart and reduce blood pressure, which is a major risk
factor for stroke.
doctor may also recommend medication to manage your cholesterol. Drug therapy
generally tends to affect cholesterol levels more quickly than diet and exercise. Your
doctor may prescribe medication if they feel
it’s important to get your cholesterol down immediately.
are many different drugs used to treat cholesterol issues. They can either
lower LDL cholesterol, raise HDL cholesterol, or both. Your doctor can decide
which drug is right for your condition. Tell your doctor about any other
medications (including herbs and supplements) you take. They may not interact
well with cholesterol-modifying drugs.
your cholesterol medication exactly as directed. Tell your doctor right away if
you have any unpleasant side effects. Cholesterol drugs can be very effective,
but you should also adopt a heart-healthy diet and exercise program to
achieve the best results.
are some of the most commonly used drugs to treat cholesterol problems. Statins
are HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. They slow down the body’s production of
cholesterol. They also help to eliminate some of the excess cholesterol from
your arteries. Statins are primarily used to lower LDL cholesterol levels. In
some cases they can slightly improve triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels. For
people who have already suffered a heart attack, starting a statin medication lowers
their risk of a second heart attack, stroke, or death. Many different practice
guidelines advocate the use of statins in patients with cholesterol problems,
but it remains controversial as to whether or not statin treatment lowers the
risk of death in people who have never had a heart attack or stroke.
should not drink grapefruit juice when taking your statin medication. Grapefruit
juice and other citrus fruits and juices can interfere with certain enzymes
that help breakdown medications in your digestive system. This can increase the
potency of the medication and cause potentially dangerous side effects. Talk to
your doctor before taking statins if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or have
any liver conditions.
of the most common statin drugs and their brand names include:
- atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- fluvastatin (Lescol)
- lovastatin (Altoprev, Mevacor)
- pravastatin (Pravachol)
- rosuvastatin Calcium (Crestor)
- pitavastatin (Livalo)
- simvastatin (Zocor)
possible side effects of statins include:
statin medications contain an additional drug to help lower triglycerides or
boost HDL cholesterol. They include:
with amlodipine (Caduet) – works to decrease blood pressure and treat
with niacin (Advicor)
with ezetimibe (Vytorin)
effects of combination statins generally have the same side effects as other
statins. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about possible side
Bile Acid-Binding Resins
called bile acid sequestrants, these drugs help the body dispose of
cholesterol. Your body uses cholesterol to create the bile used to digest food.
These drugs bind to bile so that it can’t be used. The liver is then required
to use more cholesterol in order to make additional bile. This lowers the total
level of cholesterol that reaches your bloodstream.
drugs are sometimes prescribed in addition to statins for
people with very high cholesterol. People with liver or gallbladder problems should
avoid these medications. Examples of bile-acid-binding resins include:
(Locholest, Locholest Light, Prevalite, Questran, Questran Light)
effects may include:
Selective Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors
cholesterol absorption inhibitors help lower LDL cholesterol by preventing its
absorption by the intestines. They may have a modest effect on boosting HDL
cholesterol as well. People with liver disease should not take this type of
medication. An example of this type of cholesterol drug is ezetimibe (Zetia).
effects may include:
alone or in combination with other drugs, fibrates work by lowering
triglycerides. In some cases they can raise “good” HDL cholesterol. People with
kidney problems, gallbladder disease, or liver disease should not use fibrates.
Examples of fibrates include:
(Antara, Lofibra, Tricor, and Triglide)
effects may include:
taken with a statin, fibrates may increase the chance of a very serious side
effect whose symptoms include muscle pain or weakness.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid (Fish Oil)
prescription-strength fish oil (omega-3 fatty acid) called Lovaza is
FDA-approved for the treatment of very high blood triglycerides (above 500 milligrams
per deciliter (mg/dL)). Omega-3 fatty acids are also available as supplements,
but in lower doses.
possible side effects may include:
risk of infections
Niacin (Nicotinic Acid)
niacin (vitamin B3) can boost HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol and
triglyceride levels. When used in combination with statins, niacin could raise
HDL cholesterol levels significantly. Although you can buy niacin without a
prescription, over-the-counter formulations (doses) are not effective in
treating high cholesterol. Examples of prescription-strength niacin include:
take high doses of niacin without a prescription from your physician. It
may can harmful side effects and increase blood glucose levels in people with
effects may include:
sensation in extremities