If you’ve been diagnosed as having high cholesterol you will first be advised to make lifestyle and dietary changes. This will include eating a healthier diet, low in saturated fat and increasing your levels of exercise. If you are a smoker it will be strongly advised to kick the habit, as smoking can inhibit the amount of good cholesterol in your blood. If after a few months, your cholesterol levels are still high, despite these lifestyle changes then it will probably be deemed necessary to start taking cholesterol-lowering medication (statins).
There are different types of cholesterol-lowering medication. It will be up to your doctor to decide which one is the most suited to you. The most commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering medicines are known as 'Statins'.
Statins work by blocking the enzyme in your liver that helps produce cholesterol. This will lead to a reduction of your overall blood cholesterol levels. Examples of statins include:
- Simvastatin (Zocor) - 10mg, 20mg & 40mg
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor) - 10mg, 20mg, 40mg & 80mg
- Pravastatin (Lipostat) - 10mg, 20mg & 40mg
- Rosuvastatin (Crestor) - 5mg, 10mg, 20mg & 40mg
- Fluvastatin (Lescol) - 20mg & 40mg
Of all the statins available, simvastatin and atorvastatin are the most commonly prescribed. Once you begin taking statins they are usually taken for life as If you were to stop taking your statin then your cholesterol levels would again begin to rise.
Statins are prescribed for individuals who:
- Present a continued risk of contracting heart disease
- Have suffered a heart attack or stroke
- Continually present with high cholesterol levels
Most statins are taken every night as this is when the body produces the most cholesterol. If you’re taking Simvastatin or Atorvastatin it is recommended to avoid consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice as they can increase your risk of experiencing side effects.
Ezetrol (ezetimibe) is another medicine that can be used to treat high cholesterol. It is normally a second-line treatment that is used if statins are inappropriate or if another medicine is required in addition to a statin to lower cholesterol. Ezetrol lowers cholesterol by blocking the absorption in the small intestine and blocks the amount of cholesterol available to the liver. This results in more cholesterol being removed from the bloodstream, lowering your cholesterol levels and reducing the chances of fatty plaques building up.