High cholesterol medications are often the first line of defense when LDL (low density lipoprotein) levels become elevated. This is because it many cases they are effective at reducing the level of bad cholesterol in the blood stream, because they work to reduce the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver. These lipid lowering medications are even more effective when combined with healthy lifestyle practices such as limiting bad fat intake, reducing simple sugar intake, quitting smoking, increasing physical activity and losing weight.
The most common of these medications are referred to as statin drugs. Understanding their function first means understanding what is cholesterol in the first place. Cholesterol is a substance that the body needs to carry out necessary functions like using energy, building cells and producing hormones. Only about a quarter of it is derived from food sources. The majority comes from the liver’s manufacturing center, and how much it produces depends on many factors like lifestyle and genetics. Since the large part of cholesterol is made in the liver, these high cholesterol medications exert their energy there, by inhibiting the production of the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme, which contributes to the liver’s ability to make cholesterol, according to Wikipedia.
The United States has approved the use of several different statins, and there are others that are used in other parts of the world as well. WebMD notes that six statins are admitted for use in the United States, and that they together comprise some of the most abundantly used prescription medications, boasting nearly twenty million users. We have compiled a list of the top ten most popular of these high cholesterol medications, including of course those most often used Stateside. Each may be slightly different in form and function as well as with regards inherent statins side effects. Which one (if any) is right for you will depend on your doctor’s recommendations, health history and individual circumstances.
1. Lipitor: Likely the best known of cholesterol medications, Lipitor is the name that most people associate with treating elevated LDL levels. Wikipedia explains that Lipitor is a synthetic atorvastatin that works to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood as well as provide anti-inflammatory benefits that help to reduce the risk of strokes and stabilize existing plaques found in the arteries. Lipitor side effects such as muscle pain is one of the most common complaints, a phenomenon that is common among high cholesterol medications.
2. Zocor: Zocor is a type of statin that is used to control high cholesterol numbers in conjunction with healthy lifestyle modifications like diet and exercise, and is considered appropriate when these types of lifestyle measures have failed. Zocor side effects are similar to those of other statin type drugs, with gastrointestinal ails, tiredness and weakness being the most common. More serious side effects of Zocor may include neurological problems like memory loss and severe liver damage.
3. Lovastatin: Lovastatin is most commonly marketed under the brand name Mevacor, and is used to promote the increase of good cholesterol alongside the reduction of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides when combined with healthy lifestyle changes, according to WebMD. One interesting note about Lovastatin has to do with a natural cholesterol lowering mechanism. Like plant sterols supplements, oats and almonds, grapefruit has been linked to lowering cholesterol. However, it cannot be enjoyed while on Lovastatin, because as with other statins, grapefruit may have undesirable effects on the medication. Like other high cholesterol medications, risks of muscle damage, kidney damage and liver damage may occur rarely and secondary to the common side effects of this mediation.
4. Pravachol: Pravachol is used to lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides and raise good cholesterol, which can have a positive effect on the risk of cardiovascular disease. WebMD explains that while the drug is common, some uncommon side effects may occur with its use including memory problems, serious muscle conditions and damage to the liver.
5. Lescol: Lescol is a brand name for a class of drugs known as fluvastatins. It also goes by the brand names Vastin and Canef. Interestingly enough, while high cholesterol medications are associated with rare but serious liver damage, a small study found that fluvastatins may promote antiviral properties in people with Hepatitis C, although this hypothesis is far from proven.
6. Crestor: WebMD explains that Crestor is a medication used to control high cholesterol that works best in conjunction with healthy lifestyle changes like losing weight, quitting smoking and making dietary changes. Crestor in rare cases can lead to serious conditions of the kidneys, liver or muscles.
7. Vytorin: Vytorin is one of several combination high cholesterol medications that provide two different mechanisms of action. It combines the cholesterol lowering effects of Zocor with another medication that decreases cholesterol levels in the plasma and inhibiting the absorption of same in the small intestine. However, this combination approach may add side effects to the already abundant list of them associated with statins.
8. Caduet: Caduet is another combination product. This particular medication consists of a cholesterol lowering medication (An atorvastatin like Lipitor) with a blood pressure reducing medication. As high blood pressure is not uncommon in those with high cholesterol, this type of medication can tackle both problems simultaneously, further reducing cardiovascular risk. In addition however to the side effects associated with high cholesterol medications, the inclusion of the aplodipine found in caduet may lead to edema, dizziness or gastrointestinal problems, among others.
9. Advicor: Advicor is a combination therapy medication that combines the cholesterol lowering properties of Mevacor with niacin (vitamin B3). Niacin is thought to be very effective at increasing HDL (good) cholesterol, while simultaneously lowering bad cholesterol and triglycerides.
10. Simcor: Rounding out combination statin therapy high cholesterol medications is Simcor. Simcor is another medication that harnesses the power of niacin therapy and combines it with Zocor. Unfortunately, while niacin side effects are often minimal (including flushing and tingling) the combination product still retains the potentially negative impacts of the predominant Zocor.
It is important to remember that all medications prescribed by your doctor are important to take. Cholesterol medications make up some of the most prescribed medications in the United States, because they have been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Sometimes, more than one medication may need to be tried before you find the one that is right for you, and discussing the benefits, risks and side effects of each will help you and your health care provider make a decision with regards which is the best (if any) for you. Remember also that lifestyle plays an important role in the success of any medication, and that getting healthy can help boost the effectiveness of high cholesterol medications, or even eliminate the need for them entirely.