Cholesterol Lowering Drugs

Medications are often used to treat hypercholesterolemia when lifestyle changes alone do not sufficiently lower cholesterol. For example, some of the drugs that lower cholesterol include statins, bile acid sequestrants, and cholesterol absorption inhibitors. Your healthcare provider may use a combination of drugs to treat your condition. Even if your physician recommends medications to lower your cholesterol, it's still important to make lifestyle changes (such as being more physically active).

Cholesterol Lowering Drugs: An Introduction

The first step in lowering cholesterol usually involves making lifestyle changes. For some people, diet, weight control, and exercise are not enough to lower cholesterol to a healthy level. If lifestyle changes alone are not enough, your doctor can prescribe cholesterol lowering drugs.
Your doctor will base his or her decision to prescribe medication on more than just the results of a cholesterol test. He or she will also look to see if you are at risk for heart disease from other problems. If you have a 7.5 percent risk (or higher) of a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years (based on the calculations), you will likely be started on a statin. The "intensity" of the statin therapy (in other words, the dosage) will be chosen depending on how high your risks are. 
(Click Heart Attack Risk to determine your 10-year risk.)
If your healthcare provider does recommend a drug for lowering cholesterol, there are many options. The type of cholesterol medication your doctor recommends will be based on factors such as your cholesterol levels and other medical conditions you may have.
The seven major types of cholesterol lowering drugs are:
  • Statins
  • Fibrates
  • Bile acid sequestrants
  • Nicotinic acid
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
  • Microsomal triglyceride transfer protein inhibitors
  • Oligonucleotide inhibitors (apo B-100 synthesis inhibitors).
Treatment with cholesterol medication controls but does not "cure" high cholesterol. Therefore, you must continue taking your medicine to keep your cholesterol level in the recommended range.
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