Taking a prescription drug instead of a supplement should be doctor’s orders for most people with high cholesterol and heart disease. Large studies now prove that cutting cholesterol quickly and dramatically with these medications reduces the risk of heart attack and death in such patients by 30% or more, says Anne Goldberg, MD, professor of medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. “We’re talking about saving lives.”
Even if you don’t have heart disease, a borderline LDL cholesterol level between 130 and 160 after a low-fat diet and exercise program may prompt your doctor to put you on cholesterol-lowering medication.
Two types of medication are prescribed most often for high cholesterol:
- Statins: These drugs act as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, decreasing the body’s production of LDL cholesterol. In 10 studies, the statins reduced LDL 20% to 40%. Brands include Mevacor, Zocor, Pravachol, and Lescol. A month’s supply costs $52 to $115, depending on the drug.
- Bile acid resins: In the intestine, these drugs bind bile acids that contain cholesterol, preventing them from being reabsorbed into your bloodstream. Bile acid resins lower cholesterol by 10% to 20%. A month’s supply of the brand Questran costs about $57.