Pharmaceutical Medicines and Treatments for Cholesterol
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 and maintain a healthy body weight. Many doctors will encourage you to try these diet 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 medication.
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 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 include:
Satins are drugs that work by constraining the enzyme HMG_CoA reductase. This enzyme regulates how quickly cholesterol is produced in the body. By slowing this enzyme, satins are able to lower LDL_cholesterol levels more effectively than many other cholesterol drugs currently on the market.
In fact, some studies have suggested that these cholesterol-lowering drugs can lower bad cholesterol by up to 60%, which can be very good news for people with severely elevated LDL-cholesterol. Some studies have also shown that Statins may contribute to lowering triglyceride levels and even slightly increasing HDL_cholesterol levels.
All these benefits make statins among the most commonly used drugs for lowering cholesterol. The Statins most used today are pravastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, simvastatin, and atorvastatin.
If you take statins to lower your cholesterol, you can expect to see results in a few weeks. You will have to take your medications at night, with food. Although statins have fewer side effects than many other cholesterol-lowering drugs, some patients experience cramps, gas, stomach upset, constipation and other digestive problems.
In many cases, these symptoms go away by themselves or at least become less severe as the body adjusts to the statins. In some case, your doctor may suggest taking a lower dosage in order to control side effects. More serious complications from statins include the risks of muscle problems and liver problems. These complications are quite rare in patients who take statins, but if you notice any pain or unusual symptoms while taking statins, you will want to seek medical help right away.
- Bile Acid Sequestrants
Bile acid sequestrants such as cholestyramine, colestipol, and colesevelam attach themselves to the bile acids in the intestine that contain cholesterol. The body then can get rid of the cholesterol in bowel movements rather than absorbing it. These drugs, even in small doses, can lower LDL_cholesterol a moderate amount - by up to 20% in many patients. Since these drugs lower cholesterol only a modest amount, they are often combined with satins for more effective treatment of high cholesterol.
If you take these drugs to lower your cholesterol, you must take them with water or fruit juice and with food. If you take other medication, you will have to be careful to take those medications one hour before or several hours after the acid bile sequestrants, as these cholesterol-lowering medications may affect how other drugs are absorbed by your body. Your doctor will have to advise you when to take your other medications to ensure that these cholesterol medications do not affect your treatment of other health conditions.
Usually, bile acid sequestrates are prescribed in doses meant to be taken once or twice a day. If you take these cholesterol-lowering medications, you need to drink plenty of water, as many patients experience unpleasant symptoms such as gas, nausea, constipation, and feeling of bloating when taking bile acid sequestrants.
- Nicotinic Acid
Nicotinic acid is also called niacin. It is a vitamin that increases HDL-cholesterol while lowering triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol, and total cholesterol when taken in large amounts. In fact, thi9s medication can reduce bad cholesterol levels by up to 20%. In many cases, patients are started on small doses of nicotinic acid and have their dosage slowly raised to heighten the cholesterol-fighting power of this medication.
Patients who take this medication need to have careful doctor supervision, since 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 other medical conditions your doctor may decide that nicotinic acid is too risky because of these possible side effects.
Nicotinic acid can be taken with meals to reduce side effects such as hot flashes and some doctor even suggest that patients combine the drug with aspirin or another drug for the same reason.
Fibrates decrease triglyceride levels and raise HDL-cholesterol. They are less effective in lowering LDL-cholesterol and for this reason are used more often by people who have heart disease rather than high cholesterol. However, in some cases, they are given in conjunction with cholesterol-lowering drugs to keep a patient’s heart healthy while lowering cholesterol to acceptable levels. Fibrates that are often prescribed to lower cholesterol include drugs such as Gemfibrozil.
Usually, Fibrates are taken in the morning and at night, about half an hour before eating. Among the most common side effects of these drugs are 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 a hormone therapy meant to treat the symptoms and health effects caused by menopause in women. It usually 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 menopause. Among the effects of hormone replacement therapy is a lowering of bad cholesterol levels, which 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 disagree whether hormone replacement therapy is as effective as c 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 disease and blood clots as well as other potential risks. Women should speak to their doctors about the risks and potential benefits of hormone replacement therapy in order to determine whether the treatment is appropriate for them.
- Other drugs
Some doctors may prescribe drugs meant to offset or treat heart disease as well as lower cholesterol. Some doctors, for example, may 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 may be causing the elevated cholesterol, that condition may be treated to improve cholesterol levels as well as overall health.
It is important to remember that cholesterol-lowering medications are not a complete solution in themselves. Even if you are taking doctor-prescribed cholesterol medication, you will still need to:
- Control conditions such as diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, and other health aspects that may affect your cholesterol and heart health
- Follow a diet that is healthy, low in salt and saturated fats, and low in food cholesterol
- Follow a good exercise regimen
- Lose weight if you are not at your ideal weight
These heart-healthy choices may reduce or eliminate your need of cholesterol-lowering medications. Eve if they do not, by following these simple steps you will help your medication work more effectively, ensuring that your cholesterol is under control more quickly and effectively. Cholesterol medication alone does not usually work to reduce bad cholesterol levels and increase good cholesterol levels. Your best plan for that is to follow a lifestyle that is healthy.
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