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Many people who have excess LDL cholesterol also need to take medicine to lower their cholesterol levels at some point. This is especially true for people with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease or those who are at high risk for developing it. 

Statins—in combination with lifestyle changes—are still the drug treatment of choice. Research has shown that the use of statins can reduce the risk of cardiac events like heart attack, stroke and related death. There are at least seven statins available, and they work in different ways; for example by:

  • Reducing the amount of cholesterol made by the liver
  • Removing cholesterol from the blood
  • Reducing cholesterol in plaque
  • Reducing inflammation from plaque
  • Preventing plaque from dislodging or forming a clot that may block an artery 

As with any medication, it is important to tell your doctor about any side effects or problems from statins. Though side effects are not common, your doctor may decide to:

  • Order a blood test to find out if there may be another cause of your symptoms
  • Lower the dose of the statin you are taking
  • Switch you to a different statin
  • Prescribe an alternative dosing schedule 
 Other medications (non-statins) include: 
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitor/Ezetimibe
  • Bile-acid-binding sequestrants or resins and high-dose omega-3 fatty acids for treating severe high levels of triglycerides
  • Fibrates (mostly used to treat high levels of triglycerides)
  • Niacin
  • PCSK9 inhibitors 

No matter which medication your clinician prescribes, take your medications exactly as directed—that’s the only way to make sure they work as intended. If you have side effects or concerns, talk with your health care provider before making any changes. Your pharmacist is also a good resource if you have questions.

Did You Know?

  • People with high total cholesterol are twice as likely to develop heart disease.
  • About 1 in 3 American adults has high LDL.
  • For women, knowing their cholesterol levels becomes even more important after menopause because they often change at this time.
  • Last Edited 11/30/2018