Cholesterol Medicines

What is cholesterol?

Your body needs some cholesterol to work properly. But if you have too much in your blood, it can stick to the walls of your arteries and narrow or even block them. This puts you at risk for coronary artery disease and other heart diseases.

Cholesterol travels through the blood on proteins called lipoproteins. One type, LDL, is sometimes called the “bad” cholesterol. A high LDL level leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. Another type, HDL, is sometimes called the “good” cholesterol. It carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver. Then your liver removes the cholesterol from your body.What are the treatments for high cholesterol?

If you have high cholesterol, lifestyle changes can help you to lower your cholesterol level. But sometimes the lifestyle changes are not enough, and you need to take cholesterol medicines. You should still continue with the lifestyle changes even though you are taking medicines.Who needs cholesterol medicines?

Your health care provider may prescribe medicine if:

  • You have already had a heart attack or stroke, or you have peripheral arterial disease
  • Your LDL (bad) cholesterol level is 190 mg/dL or higher
  • You are 40-75 years old, you have diabetes, and your LDL cholesterol level is 70 mg/dL or higher
  • You are 40-75 years old, you have a high risk of developing heart disease or stroke, and your LDL cholesterol level is 70 mg/dL or higher

What are the different types of medicines for cholesterol?

There are several types of cholesterol-lowering drugs available, including

  • Statins, which block the liver from making cholesterol
  • Bile acid sequestrants, which decrease the amount of fat absorbed from food
  • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors, which decrease the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food and lower triglycerides.
  • Nicotinic acid (niacin), which lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides and raises HDL (good) cholesterol. Even though you can buy niacin without a prescription, you should talk to your health care provider before taking it to lower your cholesterol. High doses of niacin can cause serious side effects.
  • PCSK9 inhibitors, which block a protein called PCSK9. This helps your liver remove and clear LDL cholesterol from your blood.
  • Fibrates, which lower triglycerides. They may also raise HDL (good) cholesterol. If you take them with statins, they may increase the risk of muscle problems.
  • Combination medicines, which include more than one type of cholesterol-lowering medicine

There are also a few other cholesterol medicines (lomitapide and mipomersen) that are only for people who have familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). FH is an inherited disorder that causes high LDL cholesterol.How does my health care provider decide which cholesterol medicine I should take?

When deciding which medicine you should take and which dose you need, your health care provider will consider

  • Your cholesterol levels
  • Your risk for heart disease and stroke
  • Your age
  • Any other health problems you have
  • Possible side effects of the medicines. Higher doses are more likely to cause side effects, especially over time.

Medicines can help control your cholesterol, but they don’t cure it. You need to keep taking your medicines and get regular cholesterol checks to make sure that you cholesterol levels are in a healthy range.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that test how well new medical approaches work in people. Each study answers scientific questions and tries to find better ways to prevent, screen for, diagnose, or treat a disease. Clinical trials may also compare a new treatment to a treatment that is already available.

Every clinical trial has a protocol, or action plan, for conducting the trial. The plan describes what will be done in the study, how it will be conducted, and why each part of the study is necessary. Each study has its own rules about who can take part. Some studies need volunteers with a certain disease. Some need healthy people. Others want just men or just women.

An Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviews, monitors, and approves many clinical trials. It is an independent committee of physicians, statisticians, and members of the community. Its role is to

  • Make sure that the study is ethical
  • Protect the rights and welfare of the participants
  • Make sure that the risks are reasonable when compared to the potential benefits

In the United States, a clinical trial must have an IRB if it is studying a drug, biological product, or medical device that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates, or it is funded or carried out by the federal government.

NIH: National Institutes of Health

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare, degenerative brain disorder. Symptoms usually start around age 60. Memory problems, behavior changes, vision problems, and poor muscle coordination progress quickly to dementia, coma, and death. Most patients die within a year.

The three main categories of CJD are

  • Sporadic CJD, which occurs for no known reason
  • Hereditary CJD, which runs in families
  • Acquired CJD, which occurs from contact with infected tissue, usually during a medical procedure

Cattle can get a disease related to CJD called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or “mad cow disease.” There is concern that people can get a variant of CJD from eating beef from an infected animal, but there is no direct proof to support this.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Degenerative Nerve Diseases

Degenerative nerve diseases affect many of your body’s activities, such as balance, movement, talking, breathing, and heart function. Many of these diseases are genetic. Sometimes the cause is a medical condition such as alcoholism, a tumor, or a stroke. Other causes may include toxins, chemicals, and viruses. Sometimes the cause is unknown.

Degenerative nerve diseases include

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Friedreich ataxia
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Lewy body disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Spinal muscular atrophy

Degenerative nerve diseases can be serious or life-threatening. It depends on the type. Most of them have no cure. Treatments may help improve symptoms, relieve pain, and increase mobility.

Depression

Depression is a serious medical illness. It’s more than just a feeling of being sad or “blue” for a few days. If you are one of the more than 19 million teens and adults in the United States who have depression, the feelings do not go away. They persist and interfere with your everyday life. Symptoms can include

  • Feeling sad or “empty”
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Overeating, or not wanting to eat at all
  • Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
  • Feeling very tired
  • Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, or guilty
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression is a disorder of the brain. There are a variety of causes, including genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Depression can happen at any age, but it often begins in teens and young adults. It is much more common in women. Women can also get postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. Some people get seasonal affective disorder in the winter. Depression is one part of bipolar disorder.

There are effective treatments for depression, including antidepressants, talk therapy, or both.

NIH: National Institute of Mental Health

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