Cholesterol gets a lot of bad publicity, despite the fact that it is needed throughout the body. Cholesterol is used in the building of cell membranes and is created in the liver for this purpose. You can also get extra cholesterol in your system from the foods you eat, particular animal products like meat, cheese, and milk. Eat too much of foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol, however, and your own cholesterol level will rise.
For the average person, a cholesterol level over 200 mg/DL is considered high, putting them at risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. If your cholesterol level reaches 200 or higher, your doctor will usually advise you to get it back down to a healthy range. The first step in this process is by making changes to your diet and exercise routines. However, if this does not prove successful, your doctor may prescribe you a cholesterol-lowering drug to assist you with getting your levels within a normal range. Here is a look at how some of these cholesterol drugs work.
The most commonly used drugs for reducing cholesterol are known as statins. Statins are designed to increase the number of LDL receptors you have in your liver, so that the LDL cholesterol ends up there instead of clogging up your arteries. By having less LDL in your bloodstream, you will reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other coronary diseases.
One of the most commonly sold cholesterol prescription drugs is atorvastatin, which is usually marketed under the brand name of Lipitor. Because it can be synthetically created, this cholesterol-lowering drug is easy and inexpensive to produce in large quantities, making it a popular choice for doctors.
The one downside to statins is that although they are good at reducing LDL, or bad, cholesterol, they do not always work as well with reducing your triglyceride levels or with improving your HDL cholesterol levels. So taking statins alone may not be effective enough to solve your high cholesterol problem.
An alternative that you can try for raising your HDL cholesterol levels is niacin (also known as vitamin B3). Niacin has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol levels and help with the prevention of heart disease at the same time. Another option to look into is plant sterols, a chemical that is found in many of the fruits and vegetables that you eat. Plant sterols are the plant equivalent of cholesterol, and can block the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive track.
Beyond pills or supplements, however, the best option for treating your cholesterol problem is through diet and exercise. Lower fat diets, particularly those that avoid the use of saturated fats and animal products, and diets that are high in fruits, grains, and vegetables are most effective. Adding exercise to your routine and lowering your weight will also help your heart to get stronger. Reducing or eliminating smoking and alcohol consumption will also help improve cholesterol levels and reduce heart risks.