Q. I have been battling statin side effects for years. My doctor has prescribed Lipitor, Crestor, Pravachol, Lescol and Zocor, but I cannot tolerate any of them because of muscle pain and weakness.
It is imperative for me to keep my lipids under control because of coronary artery disease. What can you tell me about niacin and other ways to control LDL cholesterol? I would also like to know how to raise HDL cholesterol.
A. Although statin-type drugs are extremely effective at lowering LDL cholesterol, many people cannot tolerate side effects such as muscle problems, nerve damage (neuropathy) or memory impairment. There are other ways to lower cholesterol, however.
Niacin can be a very effective way to lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol. It also reduces triglycerides. A doctor must supervise niacin use, since it can cause liver toxicity as well as uncomfortable side effects (flushing and itching).
Other strategies include fish oil and the soluble fiber psyllium. Non-statin prescription drugs that can help control cholesterol include WelChol, Tricor and Zetia.