Lowering high cholesterol

What are the dangers of high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is naturally created by your body and through the food you eat. Your body

needs cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D and to help you digest food. But too much cholesterol in your blood can build up on the walls of your arteries. This can lead to heart disease and stroke – two of the leading causes of death in the United States.1

What if I have high cholesterol?

Your doctor may check your cholesterol with a blood test. That blood test typically measures LDL cholesterol (bad), HDL cholesterol (good) and triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood). Your doctor can tell you if you are at risk of developing health complications due to high cholesterol. Together, you and your doctor can create a plan for managing your cholesterol levels. Lifestyle changes and medication are the two main ways you can manage your cholesterol.

Lifestyle refers to your diet, your body weight, physical activity and exposure to tobacco smoke. All of these can have a powerful impact on your cholesterol levels.2

Here are four simple steps you can take to help maintain a normal cholesterol level:

1. Cut down saturated fats in the food you eat, that can increase blood cholesterol.1

2. Lose weight: Losing even 5 or 10 pounds can help lower your cholesterol level.1

3. Exercise regularly: Try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.1 Exercise can help raise your HDL (good) cholesterol level.

4. Don’t smoke: People with high cholesterol who smoke face increased risk of heart disease.3


A healthy lifestyle is your first line of defense against high cholesterol. But if you’ve made these lifestyle changes and your cholesterol levels remain high, your doctor may recommend medication.4

Your doctor may choose a medication, or combination of medications, depending on your individual risk factors – your age and your current health status. Here are some common choices:4




How they work

Drug names: Brand (generic equivalent/alternative)


Statins block a substance your liver needs to make cholesterol and may also help your body reabsorb cholesterol from your artery walls.

• Lipitor® (atorvastatin)

• Lescol®, Lescol XL® (fluvastatin)

• Mevacor®, Altoprev® (lovastatin)

• Pravachol® (pravastatin)

• Crestor® (rosuvastatin)

• Zocor® (simvastatin)

• Livalo® (pitavastatin)

Bile-acid-binding resins

Your liver uses cholesterol to make bile acids for digestion. These medications bind to bile acids, which prompts your liver to use more cholesterol, indirectly reducing the level of cholesterol in your blood.

• Prevalite® (cholestyramine)

• Questran® (cholestyramine)

• Welchol™ (colesevelam)

• Colestid® (colestipol)


Reduces triglyceride levels in your blood which can lead to lower LDL (bad) and higher HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

• Lopid® (gemfibrozil)

• Lipofen®, Antara®, Triglide®,

Lofibra® (fenofibrate)

• Fibricor® (fenofibric acid)


Decreases your liver’s ability to product LDL (bad) cholesterol which also leads to lower triglycerides and higher HDL (good) cholesterol.

• Niaspan®

(niacin extended-release)

Cholesterol absorption inhibitors

These medications reduce blood cholesterol by limited the absorption of dietary cholesterol.

• Zetia® (ezetimibe)

Combination cholesterol lowering medications

These medications combine 2 of the medications above for additional cholesterol lowering.

• Vytorin™ (ezetimibe-simvastatin)

• Advicor® (niacin



The effectiveness of medications to treat high cholesterol can vary from person to person. Common side effects include muscle pain, upset stomach, constipation or diarrhea. Liver tests may be needed to monitor the medication’s effect on your liver.

High cholesterol can be a serious medical concern. But understanding this common health condition and how you can take control of your cholesterol levels is the first step toward reducing your risk for heart disease and stroke. If you are concerned about high cholesterol, be sure to talk to your doctor to determine what’s best for you.



1. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. Know the

Facts About High Cholesterol. February 4, 2011.

2. American Heart Association. Prevention and Treatment of High Cholesterol. August 31, 2011.

3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. How Does Smoking Affect the Heart and Blood Vessels? March 01, 2010.

4. Mayo Clinic. High cholesterol: Treatments and drugs. June 1, 2011

We have included generic names and major trade names to help you identify the medications your doctor may discuss with you. UnitedHealthcare Pharmacy is not recommending or endorsing any specific products. Remember that your healthcare provider and pharmacist are your best sources of information. It’s important to discuss all of the drugs you take with your doctor and understand their desired effects and possible side effects. Never stop taking a medication and never change your dose or frequency without first consulting your doctor.

M50571 12/11 © 2011 United HealthCare Services, Inc.