Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Go Beyond Statins

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Cholesterol
Last Reviewed 03/22/2014

Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Go Beyond Statins

Most people are familiar with the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins. And they should be—they’re the No. 1 most often prescribed medication. But there’s also another way to pharmaceutically lower cholesterol: Bile acid sequestrants.

Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs: Bile Acid Sequestrants

Bile acid sequestrants work in the digestive tract to impede the absorption of cholesterol. Commonly prescribed bile acid sequestrants include Questran (cholestyramine), Colestid (colestipol) and Welchol (colesevelam).

While these cholesterol-lowering drugs are quite good at removing cholesterol from your body, they are not very choosy about what else they block from your system. Bile acid sequestrants also interfere with the absorption of:

  • Oral medicines, including cardiac drugs such as Digoxin, beta-blockers such as Lopressor or Inderal and diuretics such as Lasix;
  • Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K;
  • Calcium (and also promote calcium excretion);
  • Iron;
  • And folic acid.

Blocking the absorption of all these important vitamins and minerals may create nutrient deficiencies that can lead to such health problems as immune system dysfunction, osteoporosis and anemia.

My Bottom Line for Prescribing Cholesterol-lowering Drugs

If you are taking a bile acid sequestrant, you at the very least need to have your blood levels checked regularly for the nutrients listed above, so as to guard against any deficiencies and keep on top of any extra supplementation of these precious nutrients that may be needed. But ultimately, I believe cholesterol-reducing lifestyle adjustments are just as effective as cholesterol-lowering drugs and far healthier. See the dietary changesnutritional supplements and exercise strategies I recommend to bring down your cholesterol levels without medication.

More Dr. Sinatra Advice on Healthy Cholesterol Levels

What numbers indicate high cholesterol? Get my recommendations on what constitutes healthy cholesterol levels.

Considering a statin for your high cholesterol? Learn about the pros and cons of statin drugs.

Who should take a statin? Discover which people will benefit the most from taking a statin drug.

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