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Different Types of Cholesterol Medications

Although the best way to guard against high cholesterol is to live a healthy lifestyle by eating foods low in saturated fats and getting sufficient exercise, this isn’t always enough to keep those numbers in check. Some people are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol and others, for reasons unknown, simply can’t keep their cholesterol within healthy limits. Since it is commonly known that high cholesterol is a problem which can lead to a number of evils such as cardiovascular disease and stroke, it is important to understand ways in which medications can work to keep LDL and triglycerides low while keeping levels of the good stuff, HDL, high. There are three basic groups into which most cholesterol medications fall, Statins, bile acid binding resins and cholesterol absorptions inhibitors. Also there are combinations of medications within these groups.


Statins are the most prescribed medications of all the various types because they work by inhibiting the body’s production of cholesterol in the liver. While most of the time high cholesterol is the result of eating too much of the wrong foods, i.e. those high in saturated fats, sometimes high cholesterol is the result of the liver producing too much. Statins block the production of cholesterol which in turn causes the liver to draw it out of the bloodstream for use by the body. The best know prescription medications in this class are Altoprev, Crestor, Lescol,Lipitor, Mevacor, Pravachol and Zocor. As with all medications, there is the potential for side effects so when taking any of these medications, read the warnings and enclosed information thoroughly.

Bile Acid Binding Resins

A fact which is unknown to most of us is the fact that bile actually holds the richest concentration of cholesterol in the body, but for a very good reason. Bile is produced to help us digest the fats that we eat. The digested fats are then carried through the bloodstream to the liver for processing. If the liver cannot handle the sheer amount of cholesterol in the blood, it simply sits in the bloodstream building up. Bile acid binding resins bind to the cholesterol in our digestive tract before it gets into the bloodstream. Much of it is eliminated through the digestive tract, out into our stools, before it can be transported to the liver. This class of drugs includes Colestid, Questran and Welchol.

Cholesterol Absorption Inhibitors

This class of medications was really only approved by the FDA within the past decade and they attempt to do much the same thing as bile acid binding resins, but from a different approach. The goal is to keep cholesterol from reaching the liver in both types of medicine. Whereas bile binding acids actually bind with cholesterol to carry it through for elimination, cholesterol absorption inhibitors seek to inhibit cholesterol from passing through the small intestine into the bloodstream. The end result is the same in both cases; smaller amounts of cholesterol end up reaching the liver. The most common drug in this class is Zetia.

Keep in mind that medications react differently on different people so your doctor may try an assortment of cholesterol medications before finding one that works for you with few side effects. In fact, your doctor may prescribe one of the newer combination drugs such as Vytorin which is a combination Statin and cholesterol absorption inhibitor. In any case, never take any medications without speaking with your doctor as some medications are known to have serious side effects and adverse reactions with other substances. In any event, you will want to monitor your cholesterol as you take your medication so you would need to see your doctor regularly anyway. Along with a healthy lifestyle, cholesterol medications can lower your count by 39 to 60%.

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