Understanding Cholesterol

Everyone says you should have your cholesterol levels checked. But what is cholesterol? And why is it important?

Cholesterol is a kind of fat in your blood that is naturally formed in your body. It is normal, and essential to certain cell functions.

Understanding your cholesterol levels

When your cholesterol levels are checked, the test involves three different types of fat in your blood:

Each is unique and affects your body in a different way. And because they are different, each has a different ideal level. Your doctor measures all three cholesterol levels to calculate your total cholesterol score. If your total cholesterol is too high, your doctor will work with you to help get it to target levels.

LDL ("bad") cholesterol

Bad cholesterol, known as LDL cholesterol, is the main kind of cholesterol in your blood. But when too much LDL cholesterol circulates in your blood, it can slowly build up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup, called plaque, can slow blood flow.

HDL ("good") cholesterol

Good cholesterol, known as HDL cholesterol, is another type of lipid (fat) found in the blood. According to the American Heart Association, an HDL cholesterol less than 40 mg/dL is low for men and less than 50 mg/dL is low for women. If your good cholesterol is low, your doctor may try to raise it.


Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood. They're made in the liver and also come from foods that you eat. A high triglyceride level combined with low HDL or high LDL is associated with the buildup of fat in the blood. That’s one reason you want your triglycerides to be lower.

If eligible, save up to $70 for NIASPAN per 30-day supply*

If you have questions, please call 1-844-415-0681

* Eligible patients will pay the first $5 and receive up to a maximum savings of $70 for NIASPAN per 30-day supply. Eligibility: In Massachusetts, co-pay assistance is not available for products with certain generic equivalents (for example, any product with an AB-rated generic equivalent). Available to patients with commercial prescription insurance coverage for NIASPAN. Co-pay assistance program is not available to patients receiving prescription reimbursement under any federal, state or government-funded insurance programs (for example, Medicare (including Part D), Medicare Advantage, Medigap, Medicaid, TRICARE, Department of Defense or Veterans Affairs programs) or where prohibited by law. If at any time a patient begins receiving prescription drug coverage under any such federal, state or government-funded healthcare program, patient will no longer be able to use the NIASPAN, savings card and patient must call NIASPAN customer service to stop participation. Patients may not seek reimbursement for value received from the NIASPAN savings card from any third-party payers. Offer subject to change or discontinuance without notice. Restrictions, including monthly maximums, may apply. This is not health insurance.

The importance of having your cholesterol checked

High cholesterol itself isn’t painful; in fact, you can’t feel it at all. Even if your doctor says you have a serious cholesterol problem, you may feel perfectly healthy. Working with your doctor by taking a simple blood test can help you determine if you have high cholesterol. And if you do, the first steps in managing your high cholesterol should be to make changes in your diet and exercise habits.

Please see the full Prescribing Information for NIASPAN and discuss it with your healthcare provider.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

If you cannot afford your medication, contact www.pparx.org for assistance.

Legal Notices/Privacy Policy. Copyright 2013, AbbVie Inc., North Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. If you have any questions about AbbVie's Niaspan.com website that have not been answered click here. This website and the information contained herein is intended for use by US residents only, is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace a discussion with a healthcare provider. All decisions regarding patient care must be made with a healthcare provider and consider the unique characteristics of each patient.


  • NIASPAN is not for people with liver problems, stomach ulcers, serious bleeding problems, or those allergic to any product ingredient.
  • Severe liver damage has occurred when switching to a long-acting niacin (NIASPAN) from immediate-release niacin. Do not switch between forms of niacin without talking to your healthcare provider.
  • Tell your healthcare provider about any unexplained muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness, as this could be a sign of a serious side effect. This risk increases when NIASPAN is taken, particularly in the elderly, diabetics, and those with kidney or thyroid problems.
  • NIASPAN should be used with caution if you consume large amounts of alcohol and/or have a past history of liver disease.
  • Your healthcare provider should do blood tests before and during treatment to check liver enzyme levels, as these can increase with treatment.
  • NIASPAN can cause an increase in blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, check your blood sugar levels more frequently during the first few months or with NIASPAN dose changes.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you have kidney problems or a history of gout. NIASPAN can cause an increase in uric acid levels.
  • The most common side effects with NIASPAN are flushing, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, increased cough, and itching.
  • Flushing (warmth, redness, itching, and/or tingling of the skin) is a common side effect of NIASPAN therapy. It may vary in severity and is more likely to happen when starting NIASPAN or during dose increases. Flushing may get better after several weeks of consistent NIASPAN use. Talk to your doctor about how the symptoms of flushing are different from symptoms of a heart attack. By dosing at bedtime, flushing will likely occur during sleep. If awakened by flushing, get up slowly, especially if feeling dizzy or faint, or taking blood pressure medications.
  • If you are taking another cholesterol medication called a bile acid-binding resin (e.g., colestipol, cholestyramine) along with NIASPAN, take these medicines at least 4 to 6 hours apart.
  • Some medicines should not be taken with NIASPAN. Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including aspirin, any cholesterol medication, blood pressure medication, blood thinner medication, or any products containing niacin or nicotinamide.

For more information, talk with your healthcare provider.


NIASPAN® (niacin extended-release) tablets are a prescription medication used along with diet when a low-cholesterol diet and exercise alone are not enough.

  • NIASPAN raises HDL ("good") cholesterol and lowers LDL ("bad") cholesterol and triglycerides in people with abnormal cholesterol levels.
  • NIASPAN is also used to lower the risk of heart attack in people who have had a heart attack and have high cholesterol.
  • In people with coronary artery disease and high cholesterol levels, NIASPAN, when used with a bile acid-binding resin (another cholesterol medicine), can slow down or lessen the buildup of plaque (fatty deposits) in your arteries.

Taking NIASPAN with another cholesterol-lowering medicine (simvastatin) does not reduce heart attacks or strokes more than taking simvastatin alone.