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 cholesterol (“bad”)
Bad cholesterol, known as LDL cholesterol, is the major cholesterol carrier 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 cholesterol (“good”)
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 why you want your triglycerides to be lower.
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
USES for NIASPAN
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.
- NIASPAN can be used in combination with lovastatin or simvastatin to improve abnormal cholesterol levels when taking NIASPAN, simvastatin, or lovastatin alone is not enough.
No additional benefit of NIASPAN on heart disease has been demonstrated when used with simvastatin or lovastatin over and above that shown for niacin, simvastatin, or lovastatin alone.
In people with heart problems and well-controlled cholesterol, taking NIASPAN with another cholesterol-lowering medicine (simvastatin) has not been shown to reduce heart attacks or strokes more than taking simvastatin alone.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION for NIASPAN
- 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 with a statin, 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, or blood thinner medication, or any products containing niacin or nicotinamide.
For more information, talk with your healthcare provider.
Reference: NIASPAN [package insert].