What are treatments for high cholesterol?
Alternative therapies for high cholesterol
There are alternative therapies for high cholesterol, but at this time, there is some debate on the effectiveness of these treatments. Some people try alternative therapies to reduce cholesterol, including garlic and red yeast rice. Other supplements touted to reduce cholesterol include chromium, lecithin and quercetin. These approaches are controversial and should only be used under the guidance of your physician. While some medical research has shown that herbs and supplements can lower cholesterol, other research has shown that they do not.
Over-the-counter treatments for high cholesterol
There are some over-the-counter treatments for people with high cholesterol. Typically, the first option for lowering your cholesterol is changing your diet and exercise and weight loss. But if changes in diet and exercise don't work to bring blood cholesterol levels into a healthy range, doctors most commonly recommend niacin or prescription medication next.
- Niacin - When used properly, niacin works very well to lower total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol ("bad cholesterol"). Niacin can also increase HDL-cholesterol ("good cholesterol"). Also called vitamin B3, niacin products are available in both regular and slow-release forms. Slow-release niacin may cause less flushing and upset stomach than regular niacin. Unfortunately, slow-release niacin has been found to cause liver damage more often than regular niacin. For this reason, only people who experience bothersome side effects while taking regular niacin should use slow-release niacin. Niacin should be used to lower cholesterol only under the direction of a doctor.
- Psyllium powder - There has been some research into using common fiber powders like Metamucil® to help lower cholesterol levels. A recent review of scientific research showed that taking 10 grams of psyllium powder every day in addition to a low fat diet can lower total and LDL cholesterol an additional 4% to 7% respectively.
Prescription treatment options
There are prescription treatments for high cholesterol but they are prescribed only after changes in diet and exercise have failed. Prescription drugs used to treat high cholesterol include bile-acid resins and statins.
- Bile-acid resins - These cholesterol drugs work by absorbing blood cholesterol so the body can get rid of it. Bile-acid resins can often reduce levels of LDL-cholesterol by 10% to 20%. Bile-acid resins include cholestyramine (Questran®), colesevelam (Welchol®) and colestipol (Colestid®).
- Statins - These drugs work by lowering the amount of cholesterol made by the body. Statins may lower LDL-cholesterol levels by 20% to 60%. Examples of statins are lovastatin (Mevacor®), simvastatin (Zocor®), pravastatin (Pravachol®), fluvastatin (Lescol®) and atorvastatin (Lipitor®). Ezetimibe (Zetia®) is a newer cholesterol-lowering drug which may be used by itself or in a combination with simvastatin called Vytorin® to lower both cholesterol and triglycerides.