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5 Things You Should Know About Cholesterol Medication

Updated on May 11, 2009

Why Do I Have to Take Cholesterol Medication?

Sometimes diet and exercise are not enough to keep high cholesterol in check. Sometimes medication is necessary to lower LDL cholesterol and maintain a healthy heart.

Cholesterol medication is generally prescribed to keep LDL cholesterol below 100 mg/dl, and HDL cholesterol higher than 50 mg/dl in women and 40 mg/dl in men.

5 Facts About Cholesterol Medication

  • Cholesterol medications work by inhibiting the liver’s production of cholesterol, greatly reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack.
  • Statins are the most commonly used types of cholesterol medication. Statins lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, and raise HDL (good cholesterol) in the body.
  • Six types of cholesterol medications on the U.S. market fall under the category of statins: Crestor, Zocor, Lipitor, Mevacor, Pravachol and Lescol.
  • Cholesterol medication does not help everyone. Genetics and biological resistance may play a factor in your medical treatment. If cholesterol medication has very little effect on your LDL cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe Zetia. Zetia blocks bad cholesterol from entering the blood stream.
  • Diet and exercise are still a necessary part of your cholesterol lowering routine. A diet high in saturated fat can interfere with the effects of your cholesterol medication.

Statin Drugs: Lowering Cholesterol 101

Side Effects

Although cholesterol medication is very beneficial to lowering cholesterol, some patients report side effects which range from mild to severe. According to the American Heart Association, "The absolute risk of side effects from statins is low." These are the most frequently reported side effects of cholesterol medication:

Muscle Pain and Rhabdomyolysis

Muscle symptoms are a common side effect of cholesterol medication; many people experience aching in the shoulders, pain in the jaw, or muscle pain in the legs.

Memory Loss

Some people experience memory loss and difficulty concentrating.

When to Consult a Doctor

  • Unexplained muscle pain and weakness could be a sign of a rare but serious side effect and should be reported to your doctor right away
  • Dark, red, or cola colored urine should be reported to your doctor immediately.
  • Report the following symptoms to your doctor: numbness, tingling, and pricking sensations; burning pain (especially at night); and/or sensitivity to touch.




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    • apricotmousse profile image

      apricotmousse 7 years ago

      Very, very helpful article.

    • futonfraggle profile image

      futonfraggle 8 years ago

      You're very lucky you don't have to take medication. Making changes to your diet is never a pleasant thing, but if it means you can avoid medication--by all means, do it. I wish you the best of luck, Brian. Thanks for droping by.

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 8 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      I just got diagnosed with high cholestral, not bad enough for medication but definitely need to watch my diet.