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What Is Cholesterol-Lowering Medicine?
If your doctor has decided that you need to take medicine to reduce high cholesterol, it’s because you’re at high risk for heart disease or stroke. Usual y the treatment combines diet and medicine.
Most heart disease and many strokes are caused by a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances cal ed plaque in the inner wal s of your arteries. The arteries can become clogged and narrow, and blood flow is reduced. If a blood clot forms and blocks blood flow to your heart, it causes a heart attack. If a blood clot blocks an artery leading to or in the brain, a stroke results.
By fol owing your doctor’s advice, you can help prevent these diseases.
What should I know about the medicine?
Your doctor wil decide which medicine is best for • It may cause flushing and itching. It could also
you. Often you’l be asked to take more than one.
Always fol ow your doctor’s orders careful y, and
let the doctor know if you have any side effects.
HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) stimulate
Never stop taking your medicine on your own!
the body to process and remove cholesterol
Bile acid binders (resins) help rid the body of
from the body. Their major effect is to lower LDL
cholesterol. Some names are cholestyramine,
cholesterol. Some names are lovastatin, pravastatin,
simvastatin, fluvastatin and atorvastatin.
• These often come in a powder that you mix
• Possible side effects include constipation,
with water or juice. They are not absorbed
from the gastrointestinal tract where they
• A few patients experience muscle pain,
• Side effects may include constipation, bloating,
Fibric acids are especial y good for lowering
nausea and gas. To reduce these effects, eat
triglyceride (blood fat) levels and, to a lesser
extent, raising HDL cholesterol levels. Some
Nicotinic acid or niacin is a B vitamin. Take this
names are gemfibrozil, clofibrate and fenofibrate.
only if your doctor has prescribed it.
• A few patients have stomach problems when
• It can lower total cholesterol, LDL “bad”
cholesterol and triglyceride (blood fat) levels. It
• Fibric acids can increase the effect of
can also raise HDL “good” cholesterol levels.
medications that thin the blood. This should be monitored closely.
What Is Cholesterol-Lowering Medicine? (continued)
How do I remember to take my medicine?
Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of your medi-
• Computerized pill boxes can alert you when it’s
time to take a pill or order refil s.
• Ask family and friends to help remind you.
• Take your medicine at the same time each day
• Use a pill calendar or drug reminder chart.
along with meals or other daily events, like brushing your teeth.
• Use a weekly pill box with separate compart-
• Try an e-mail reminder or beeper service.
• Wear a wristwatch with an alarm.
How do I know if it’s working?
Your doctor will test your blood cholesterol level
goal. Fol ow up with your doctor after reaching
when needed. Together with your doctor, set a
your goal. Don’t stop medication unless your
goal and ask how long it may take to reach that
How can I learn more?
1. Talk to your doctor, nurse or other health-care
professionals. If you have heart disease or
have had a stroke, members of your family also
may be at higher risk. It’s very important for
them to make changes now to lower their risk.
healthier choices to reduce your risk, manage
or visit americanheart.org to learn more
Knowledge is power, so Learn and Live
Do you have questions or comments for your doctor?
Take a few minutes to write your own questions for the next time you see your healthcare provider. For example:
What if I forgot a dose?
Should I avoid any foods or other medicines?
How long wil it take me to reach my
Your contribution to the American Heart Association supports research that helps make publications like this possible.
The statistics in this sheet were up to date at publication. For the latest statistics, see the Heart Disease and Stroke
Statistics Update at americanheart.org/statistics.
2007, American Heart Association 10/07LS1466
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