High cholesterol causes fatty deposits to gather in the blood vessels that can lead to blockages and cause a stroke or heart attack. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, high cholesterol may be partly genetic, but primarily occurs as a result of poor diet. Changing your diet and consumption of dietary cholesterol can reduce high cholesterol numbers. Drugs are available to treat the condition, although side effects of cholesterol medication may be uncomfortable. Making dietary and lifestyle changes may be enough to get you off cholesterol medicine.
When dietary changes don't effectively lower cholesterol numbers, your doctor may prescribe a pill to help. You may have to experiment with different drugs, however, due to the side effects. Common side effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs include nausea and diarrhea. Stomach pain, digestive disorders, constipation and muscle pain also can result from various cholesterol-lowering pills.
Diarrhea is a side effect of statins, one of the most common types of cholesterol-lowering drugs. In addition to reducing low-density lipoprotein, the bad cholesterol that clogs arteries, statins also can reduce triglycerides and raise good cholesterol numbers. Popular name brands include Zocor, Lipitor, Crestor and Mevacor. Niacin also can cause diarrhea while it lowers LDL levels.
When statins are used to treat high cholesterol, you may need to keep taking them, according to a review in the September 2009 issue of "Current Opinion in Cardiology." You are mistaken if think you can quit the drugs and the side effects once you've lowered your cholesterol to acceptable levels. Instead, your cholesterol levels will rise again once you stop taking the drugs. Significant diet and exercise changes can help to reduce your reliance on medication.
Many natural ingredients can help to lower cholesterol without having to deal with diarrhea. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the active ingredient in garlic has significant health benefits, including lowering cholesterol. One or two cloves of garlic per day may cause bad breath, and larger amounts could lead to gastrointestinal problems. Soy is another natural material that can help lower cholesterol numbers, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. About 25 grams a day of soy may lower cholesterol without adverse side effects in most people.
Sufficient dietary fiber is needed daily to prevent the build-up of cholesterol in the blood vessels. According to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, fiber is that part of plant food that the stomach cannot digest. Instead it works to help clean out the systems as it is eliminated. While high-fiber diets with sufficient whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and legumes can keep your digestion moving smoothly and lower cholesterol numbers, it also can lead to disorders such as diarrhea. For people who have diarrhea already, however, added fiber in the diet can minimize the uncomfortable symptoms.
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- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: What Causes High Blood Cholesterol?
- Current Opinion in Cardiology: When Statin Therapy Stops: Implications for the Patient
- American Heart Association: Medications
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Health Effects of Garlic
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Soy
- University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center: Fiber
- National Institutes of Health: Flaxseed