Most of the time, when we hear the word cholesterol, we correlate it to certain conditions such as heart diseases, obesity, stroke and the like. However, cholesterol is relatively safe and important especially in terms of cell functioning and hormone production. Naturally, our body produces all the cholesterol that we need through our liver, but apart from naturally produced cholesterol, there are also foods which when taken in, contributes to the amount of cholesterol in our body. These are dairy products, meat and the like.
Good Versus Bad Cholesterol.
There are mainly two types of cholesterol- one is the HDL (High Density Lipoproteins) or Good Cholesterol and the other one is the LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) or Bad Cholesterol. As a general rule, Bad cholesterol should be kept low, while Good cholesterol should be kept high. There should be a balance between both to achieve optimal functioning.
Too much of everything is dangerous - the same applies to cholesterol. Too much cholesterol in our body, especially LDL, can lead to diseases such as coronary artery disease, which may progress into more complicated diseases such as stroke and heart attack.
While diet is an important remedy in a person with high cholesterol levels, for some people, dietary modification is not enough to lower down cholesterol level. This is where Cholesterol lowering drugs come into the scene.
Types of Cholesterol-lowering Drugs
Statins. These are the most commonly prescribed anti-cholesterol drugs. These statins work by lowering the LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides by blocking the production of cholesterol in our liver. However, statins have a low effect in raising HDL (good cholesterol).
Nicotinic Acid. Nicotinic acid is one component of the Vitamin B complex and also plays a role in lowering LDL and increasing HDL.
Bile Acid Resins. Bile is a substance produced by the liver and is made up of cholesterol. Normally, when bile enters our intestines, it is reabsorbed by our body circulation thus leading to increased amount of cholesterol. Bile Acid Resins work by binding into bile to promote its excretion thus preventing reabsorption and ultimately lowering down cholesterol levels.
Fibrates. Fibrates work by lowering down the production of triglycerides and eventually increasing production of HDL.
Side Effects of Cholesterol Lowering Drugs.
Since lowering down cholesterol entails modifying the GI system, including the liver, many side effects of anti-cholesterol drugs are GI in nature such as constipation, abdominal pain, liver impairment, and heart burn.
In some cases, allergic reactions or skin rashes may occur when taking cholesterol lowering drugs. Dizziness may also be felt as well as decreased sexual desire while in the treatment regimen. It is also advised to report muscle aches and pains while taking the drug as it may signal a life threatening condition.
What To Avoid?
It is important to take note that when taking such drugs, drinking grapefruit juice and consuming fresh grapefruit should be avoided as it can interfere with the liver’s ability to metabolize the drugs. Cholesterol is a double edge- that is why it is important to keep things in balance. Dietary modification could greatly help you in your goal of lowering down your cholesterol level and especially in preventing cholesterol-related diseases.