If your doctor has found that you have high
cholesterol, you will likely be advised to follow a low saturated fat
and low cholesterol diet. You will also be told to exercise more often
and maintain a healthy body weight.
Many doctors will encourage you to try these diets and
lifestyle changes first because they have been proven most effective
in controlling cholesterol and because cholesterol-lowering
medications are strong drugs that may have side effects.
If after a number of months these diet and lifestyle changes have not
lowered your cholesterol sufficiently though, your doctor may suggest more
aggressive treatment, which may include cholesterol-lowering
If you have been advised by your doctor to take cholesterol-lowering
medication, you will certainly want to understand your medication and the
other cholesterol mediation choices which are available to you. This will
allow you to make better informed choices about your treatment.
In general, the most popular cholesterol-lowering medications used today
Statins are drugs that work by constraining an enzyme known as HMG-CoA
reductase. This enzyme regulates how quickly cholesterol is produced
within the body. By slowing down this enzyme, satins are able to lower
LDL-cholesterol levels more effectively than many other cholesterol drugs
which are currently on the market.
Actually, some studies have suggested that these cholesterol-lowering
drugs may lower bad cholesterol by up to 60%, which can be very good news
for people with strongly elevated LDL-cholesterol. Some studies have also
proven that Statins can contribute to lowering triglyceride levels and even
slightly increasing HDL-cholesterol levels.
All these benefits make statins amongst the most commonly used medicines
for lowering cholesterol. The Statins which are used the most today are
pravastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, simvastatin, and atorvastatin.
If you do take statins to lower your cholesterol, you can expect to see
some results in a few weeks. You will have to take your medications at
night, with your food. Although statins have fewer side effects than many
other cholesterol-lowering medicines, some patients do sometimes experience
cramps, gas, stomach upset, constipation and other digestive problems.
In many cases, these symptoms go away by themselves or at least they
become less severe as the body adjusts to the statins. In some cases, your
doctor may suggest you take a lower dosage in order to control the side
Some more serious complications from statins include the risks of muscle
problems as well as liver problems. These complications are quite rare in
patients who take statins, but if you do notice any pain or unusual
symptoms whilst taking statins, you might want to seek medical help
• Bile Acid Sequestrants
Bile acid sequestrants such as cholestyramine, colestipol, and
colesevelam attach themselves to the bile acids in your intestine which
contain cholesterol. The body then tries to get rid of the cholesterol with
bowel movement rather than with absorption.
These drugs, even in small doses, can lower LDL-cholesterol to a
moderate amount - by up to 20% in most patients. Since these drugs lower
cholesterol only to a modest amount, they are often combined with statins
for a more effective treatment of high cholesterol.
If you take these drugs to lower your cholesterol, you must try to take
them with water or fruit juice and with your food. If you take any other
medication, you’ll have to be careful to take your medication one hour
before or several hours after the acid bile sequestrants, as these
cholesterol-lowering medications can affect how other drugs are absorbed by
Your doctor will have to advise you when to take your other medications
in order to ensure that these cholesterol medications do not affect your
treatment of other health conditions.
Usually, bile acid sequestrates are prescribed in doses which are meant
to be taken once or twice a day. If you take these cholesterol-lowering
medications, you need to drink plenty of water, since many patients
experience unpleasant symptoms which include gas, nausea, constipation, and
feelings of bloating when taking bile acid sequestrants.
• Nicotinic Acid
Nicotinic acid is a vitamin which is also known as niacin. It helps to
increases HDL-cholesterol whilst lowering triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol,
and total cholesterol if taken in large amounts.
In actual fact, this medication can reduce bad cholesterol levels by up to 20%. In many cases, patients start with a small dose of nicotinic acid and then have their dosage slowly raised in order to heighten the cholesterol-fighting power of this medication.
Patients who take this medication need to have a cautious doctor's supervision, because nicotinic acid can have a number of serious side effects, including hot flashes, interactions with high blood pressure medicine, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, indigestion, gas, liver problems, gout, and high blood sugar.
If you have any other medical conditions, your doctor might decide that nicotinic acid is too risky because of these possible side effects.
Nicotinic acid can be taken with meals in order to reduce side effects such as hot flashes and some doctors even suggest that patients combine the drug with aspirin or another drug for the same reason.
Fibrate’s function is to decrease triglyceride levels and raise HDL-cholesterol. They are less effective in lowering LDL-cholesterol and that is why they are used more often by people who have heart disease rather than high cholesterol.
Nevertheless, in some cases, they are given in conjunction with cholesterol-lowering drugs to keep a patient’s heart healthy whilst lowering cholesterol to acceptable levels. Fibrates that are often prescribed to lower cholesterol include medicines such as Gemfibrozil.
Usually, Fibrates are taken in the morning and at night, half an hour before eating. Amongst the most common side effects of these drugs are various stomach ailments, a higher risk of gallstones, and an effect on medications being taken to thin the blood. If you are taking medications intended to thin the blood, your doctor will want to take special precautions if you are also being prescribed fibrates.
• Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy is meant to treat the symptoms and health effects caused by menopause in women. Most of the time, it involves taking estrogen or a combination of estrogen and progestin. This is meant to offset the risks that occur when women’s production of estrogen drops after the menopause.
Amongst the effects of hormone replacement therapy is a lowering of bad cholesterol levels, which do often rise in post-menopausal women. Among the other benefits of hormone therapy is a reduction in instances of hot flashes and a reduced risk of osteoporosis and heart disease, some of the most common risks to menopausal and post-menopausal women.
However, some experts do disagree whether hormone replacement therapy is as effective as cholesterol-lowering drugs in reducing bad cholesterol-levels in women. To make things even more complicated, hormone replacement therapy has also come under fire for adding to the risk of some cancers, as well as gallbladder diseases and blood clots as well as other potential risks.
Women should speak to their doctors about the risks and/or potential benefits of hormone replacement therapy in order to determine whether the treatment is appropriate for them or not.
• Other drugs
Some doctors can prescribe drugs meant to offset or treat heart disease as well as lower cholesterol. Some doctors, for example, could suggest that patients take obesity medications instead of cholesterol-lowering medications because obesity may be perceived to be responsible for higher cholesterol.
In many cases, if any underlying condition can be causing the elevated cholesterol, that condition may be treated to improve cholesterol levels as well as overall health.
It's important to remember that cholesterol-lowering medications aren't a complete solution in themselves. Even if you are taking doctor-prescribed cholesterol medication, you'll still need to:
• Control certain conditions such as diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, and other health aspects that may affect your cholesterol and heart health.
• Follow a diet which is healthy, low in salt and saturated fat, and low in food cholesterol.
• Follow a good exercise routine.
• Lose weight if you aren’t at your ideal weight.
These heart-healthy choices can reduce or eliminate your need of cholesterol-lowering medication. Even if they don't, by following these simple steps you will help your medication to work more effectively, ensuring that your cholesterol is under control more quickly and more effectively.
Cholesterol medication alone doesn't usually work to reduce bad cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol levels. Your best plan for that is to follow a lifestyle which is healthy.
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