For some people, lowering cholesterol with diet, weight control, and exercise are not enough. However, a healthy lifestyle can keep cholesterol from getting any higher. If lifestyle changes alone are not enough, your doctor can prescribe cholesterol medications.
Your doctor will base his or her decision to prescribe cholesterol medication on more than just the blood cholesterol test. He or she will also look to see if you are at risk for heart disease from other problems. The more risk factors of getting heart disease you have, the lower your cholesterol level needs to be.
There are many types of cholesterol medicines used to treat high cholesterol. The type your doctor recommends will be based on many things, like your cholesterol levels and other medical conditions. Treatment with high cholesterol medicine controls but does not "cure" high cholesterol. Therefore, you must continue taking your medicine to keep your cholesterol level in the recommended range.
The seven major types of cholesterol-lowering drugs are:
- Bile acid sequestrants
- Nicotinic acid
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
- Microsomal triglyceride transfer protein inhibitors
- Oligonucleotide inhibitors (apo B-100 synthesis inhibitors).
If you do not reach your LDL goal after 3 months on a single drug, your doctor may consider starting a second medicine along with it. Combination therapy can increase your cholesterol lowering capabilities, reverse or slow the advance of atherosclerosis, and further decrease the chance of a heart attack or related death. The use of low doses of each medicine may help reduce the side effects of the drugs.