Cholesterol Medication Rundown

A healthy lifestyle is the first and most important way to win the battle against cholesterol, but for some it’s just not enough. Many who diet and exercise still find themselves in a fight against cholesterol, and prescription medication may be the way to best combat high cholesterol.

Cholesterol medications help by decreasing your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) aka the “bad” cholesterol that increases the risk of heart disease, decreasing your triglycerides which is the fat in the blood that also increases the risk of heart disease, or by increasing your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) aka the “good” cholesterol that protects from heart disease.

Depending on what your body needs most to lower your cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe one drug or a combination of several different drugs to help lower your cholesterol. Here is a quick overview of some of the drugs you may be prescribed, there benefits and some side effects to look out for.


Crestor, Lescol, Zocor, Mevacor, Pravachol, and Lipitor, all belong in the class of drugs called statins. Statins slightly increase HDL, and decrease triglycerides as well as LDL. Some possible side effects to look out for are constipation, nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, cramps, and muscle soreness.

Bile acid binding resins

Colestid, Questran, and Welchol are all considered bile acid binding resins. These drugs only decrease LDL. Some possible side effects are constipation, nausea, and a possible increase triglycerides.

Cholesterol absorption inhibitors

Zetia is known as a cholesterol absorption inhibitor. Zetia decreases LDL, slightly decreases triglycerides, and also slightly increases HDL. Stomach pain and fatigue are the most common side effects associated with Zetia.

Combination cholesterol absorption inhibitor and statin

Vytorin is known as a combination cholesterol absorption inhibitor and statin and decreases both LDL and triglycerides, while increasing HDL. Some common side effects are stomach pain, fatigue, constipation, cramps, muscle soreness.


Fibrates such as Lofibra, Lopid, and TriCor decrease triglycerides and increase HDL. Common side effects include nausea, stomach pain, and gallstones.

Combination statin and niacin

Some drugs like Advicor are combination drugs which combine two or more other types of cholesterol fighting medications. The combination of statin and niacin decreases LDL and triglycerides while increasing HDL. Some common side effects are dizziness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sweating, and chills.


Niaspan is classified under the drug class of Niacin and is known for decreasing both LDL and triglycerides, and increasing HDL. Some common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, gout, high blood sugar, and peptic ulcers.

No matter what cholesterol medicine your doctor determines is right for you, be sure you know what side effects coincide with each drug and the warning signs you should be on the look out for. Be aware that if you are prescribed a statin or a combo drug that includes a statin, you should avoid consuming grapefruit juice.

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