High cholesterol is also known as hypercholesterolemia, meaning your level of LDL, or bad cholesterol, is dangerously high and could lead to a heart attack. Familial hypercholesterolemia runs in families, regardless of how healthy a person’s diet or exercise habits may be. Fortunately, there are hypercholesterolemia medications for individuals whose cholesterol levels remain high even with healthy lifestyle habits. Here are a few you should know about.
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Statins are usually the first hypercholesterolemia treatment used. Statins help reduce LDL levels by blocking a specific enzyme that’s necessary to produce cholesterol. Along with lowering LDL cholesterol, statins help prevent hardening of the arteries, which reduces the chances of a heart attack or stroke. Common statin drugs include Lipitor, Lescol, Pravachol, Crestor, Zocor, and others.
Niacin isn’t used as commonly as statins, but can be effective in raising HDL cholesterol and lowering LDL. Sometimes niacin is used in conjunction with statins. It’s a B-vitamin that’s found in foods, but it’s taken in higher concentration for a more potent effect. Niaspan and Nicoar are common niacin medications.
Bile Acid Drugs
Bile acid drugs work by attaching to bile from the liver. Since bile has a lot of cholesterol in it, these drugs can help lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Common bile acid resins include Colestid, Prevalite, and WelChol. Another drug, ezetimibe, works to help block the absorption of cholesterol in the small intestine. Bile acid drugs are sometimes used with a statin for people who have already had a heart attack.
Drugs like Fenofibrate and Gemfibrozil are fibrates that help the body cut down on the production of triglycerides. This helps increase the amount of HDL cholesterol in the blood.
One of the newest drugs for high cholesterol treatment is PCSK9 inhibitors. These drugs are specifically for those who’ve been unable to manage their cholesterol using statins or lifestyle changes. They’re often used for those with familial hypercholesterolemia, which is an inherited genetic condition. Familial hypercholesterolemia is much more difficult to control, but there has been a lot of success removing LDL from the blood by blocking the PCSK9 protein so that the body can more easily get rid of LDL cholesterol. Specific PCSK9 inhibitors include Praluent and Repatha.