Simvastatin is effective in lowering cholesterol levels because it blocks or inhibits a chemical necessary for the production of cholesterol from the liver. Simvastatin for cholesterol, also known by the brand name Zocor®, is a statin drug. Although the medication is generally tolerated very well, pros and cons of treatment should be discussed with the health care provider before treatment begins.
Although simvastatin for cholesterol is commonly prescribed, it can cause significant side effects. These include mild side effects, such as diarrhea, constipation, and nausea, as well as more significant side effects, such as liver damage and severe muscle pain. Although uncommon, cholesterol-lowering medications can cause permanent liver damage even when taken in small dosages.
People who take simvastatin for cholesterol-lowering effects may experience an extremely serious, and even life-threatening condition called rhabdomyolysis. This condition occurs when muscle tissue breaks down and releases a substance called myoglogin into the blood, contributing to acute kidney failure. If a person experiences nausea, vomiting, decreased urinary output, or generalized swelling, he needs to notify his health care provider immediately, as these symptoms can indicate kidney failure.
When the physician prescribes simvastatin for cholesterol, he generally orders periodic blood tests to assess liver function. If the liver enzymes in the blood are found to be elevated, the dose may be reduced or the drug might be discontinued altogether. Alternative methods of lowering cholesterol include diet modification, exercise, and weight loss. The physician can also recommend a healthy weight loss program, or even refer the patient to a nutritionist.
In addition to using simvastatin for cholesterol, other methods of treatment include incorporating fiber into the diet and taking dietary supplements, such as niacin, which is actually one of the B vitamins. Although effective in treating high cholesterol and triglyercides, niacin can cause side effects, such as stomach upset, diarrhea, and flushing. Niacin can be purchased over-the-counter, however, prescription strength is sometimes recommended. People should never take niacin without discussing it with their doctors.
Smoking may also contribute to high levels of cholesterol, especially the low density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol. This type of cholesterol is also known as "bad cholesterol" and high levels can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. The physician can prescribe a medication to help the patient quit smoking, and he can also refer him to a smoking cessation program.