Cholesterol is a waxy, odorless substance that is an essential part of cell walls and nerves. Cholesterol is made in the liver, but it also comes from some foods, such as meat and dairy products. Cholesterol can build up on the inside walls of your blood vessels, leading to plaques that can narrow or block blood flow. This is a condition called atherosclerosis.

Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL (often called the “bad cholesterol”), is a lipid, or fat, that is measured as part of your overall cholesterol level. LDL cholesterol is the major carrier of cholesterol in the blood. It can slowly build up in the blood vessels and clog the arteries. Excess fats in the blood can lead to atherosclerosis, which can damage the blood vessels feeding the kidneys.

There are medicines used to lower cholesterol by decreasing the levels of lipids in the blood. Medicine might be used when diet and exercise fail to reduce blood cholesterol. The most commonly prescribed and most effective medicines for lowering cholesterol are called statins.

Statins work by blocking an enzyme that triggers the body to make cholesterol. With less cholesterol in the blood, the level of LDL also goes down. It also increases the liver’s ability to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood.

Common statins include:​

  • Pravastatin sodium (Pravachol​)
  • Simvastatin (Zocor​)
  • Atorvastatin calcium (Lipitor​)
  • Rosuvastatin (Crestor​)
  • Ezetimibe simvastatin (Vytorin​)

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