How do medicines that lower cholesterol work?

The cholesterol in your blood comes from two sources: your liver and the foods you eat. Some of the cholesterol that's produced by your liver is released into your bowel with bile. Some of it, however, is sent directly into your blood. Your intestines absorb the cholesterol that's in the food you eat. Then it goes into your blood, too. No matter how it gets there, cholesterol in your blood can damage the lining of your blood vessels and contribute to plaque buildup. And, as you recall, plaque reduces blood flow in arteries, which can cause problems such as heart attack or stroke.

Medicines that lower cholesterol work in different ways. Some keep your liver from making as much cholesterol as it normally would. Others prevent your intestines from absorbing cholesterol into your blood. One type prompts your liver to break down cholesterol so your body can excrete it.


For details about the type of medicine you take, see the specific articles listed below. If you're not sure which type you take, see the chart under "What is the specific type I'm taking?" and look for the name of your medicine.

For additional information, see:

  • What do I need to know about bile acid resins?
  • What do I need to know about nicotinic acid?
  • What do I need to know about statins?
  • What do I need to know about fibrates?