Q. My husband took Lipitor and had a bad reaction with muscle weakness. Now my doctor is recommending that I take it, but I am reluctant. My total cholesterol is 284, my LDL 156, my HDL 114.
A. Your good HDL cholesterol is extremely high, which is great for your heart. The ratio of total to HDL cholesterol is an important measure of heart risk. Your ratio, 2.5, is excellent. Your bad LDL also is high. You might be able to get it down with the soluble fiber psyllium, walnuts or fish oil.
Q. I would like to take red yeast rice to lower my cholesterol. I heard that the Food and Drug Administration restricted sales of red yeast rice if it contained lovastatin, the ingredient in Mevacor.
A. Red yeast rice was introduced to the U.S. in the mid-1990s under the name Cholestin. A standard dose contained a little lovastatin (less than half that in a 20 mg Mevacor pill). The FDA challenged Cholestin on the grounds that it was an unapproved drug. Cholestin has since been reformulated, but there are many other red yeast rice products on the market. The FDA has warned consumers to avoid this compound, even though it lowers cholesterol.