Cholesterol -- specifically low-density lipoproteins (LDLs, or "bad" cholesterol) -- builds up over time on the inner walls of your arteries, narrowing these primary passageways and forcing the heart to work harder to move the same quantity of oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. Since healthy arteries are crucial to heart health, many doctors prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs to heart patients.
Some of these drugs:
- Statins diminish the liver's ability to produce new cholesterol.
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitorsprevent cholesterol from being absorbed by the small intestine, which would allow it to be returned to the liver and recycled.
- Bile acid resins bind to bile, disabling its function in digestion. The body then produces more bile, using cholesterol to do so -- which gets rid of the cholesterol.
- Niacin raises levels of "good" cholesterol.
- Fibrates lower blood fats that contribute to cholesterol levels.
HowStuffWorks looks at how stool softeners work and what you can do instead to avoid getting stopped up in the first place.