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Overview of Cholesterol Lowering Drugs

A high cholesterol level is a problem faced by many millions of people and from the looks of it; the worst is yet to be seen. There are many factors which contribute to the rise in high blood cholesterol levels among the general population and among them, smoking, lack of exercises, bad food habits as well as excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages can be highlighted. By doing a lipid profile, it would be possible to detect the blood cholesterol levels and based on these values, a clinician can make the decision to start cholesterol lowering drugs or to put the patient on other non medicinal methods of lowering lipids.

When measures such as low fat diets, balanced diets with enough fruits and vegetables, adequate physical exercises, absenteeism from taking alcohol and cigarettes fail in achieving a drop in the cholesterol levels or when the patient does not comply adequately with these measures, the obvious choice for the clinicians is to start on the drugs. Thus, as you can see, unless the blood cholesterol levels are exponentially high and that a person is suffering from other types of medical illnesses as well, the drugs would play a second fiddle to other measures of lowering blood cholesterol levels.

When it comes to lipid lowering drugs, there are several kinds which act on the cholesterol metabolism, absorption, transport…etc and while most of the effects are quite beneficial for reducing the risks associated with high cholesterol levels, certain effects can be a nuisance for a quality life.

Let us now see some of the drug categories that are available for cholesterol lowering.

Statins

These drugs are also called the ‘HMG Co A reductase inhibitors’ and what it does is to block the pathway of cholesterol production and therefore reduce the circulating cholesterol levels. Furthermore, it seems to reduce the risk of cholesterol buildup in the arteries as well.

Niacin

Being a vitamin B compound, it has shown to be effective in reducing the LDL cholesterol levels as well as the amount of triglycerides. Furthermore, it promotes the production of good cholesterol, which is the HDL cholesterol, which would act as a negative risk factor when present in significant proportions in the blood. This drug needs to be taken after consulting with a doctor and it would be issued only to a valid prescription from a doctor.

Fibrates

Being a fibric acid derivative, fibrates would reduce the triglyceride levels as well as increase the amount of HDL cholesterol levels.

Resins

These drugs would act by binding with the bile acids and thereby getting rid of them from the body. As the bile acids are formed in the liver using cholesterols, the body would use up more cholesterols in replenishing the necessary amounts of bile. This would facilitate the using up of cholesterol as well as reduction of LDLs apart from its effect on absorption of cholesterol particles in the intestine.

Apart from the above drugs, cholesterol absorption inhibitors will reduce the amount of cholesterols being absorbed from the intestine and often is given in combination with drugs such as the statins.

Finally, the initiation of lipid lowering drugs would be made by a clinician and may want to continue a certain drug even after the lipid levels returns to normalcy. One reason for this would be its beneficial effects in reducing cardio-vascular risks through continued use and therefore, abrupt stoppage of these drugs should not be done by you but only by the prescribing doctor.