Can Cholesterol Treatments Affect the Bladder?

I have been prescribed a “statin” drug to help lower my cholesterol—the total was 295 mg/dl. I was reluctant to start taking it because I take three other medications for my IC, but the doctor encouraged me to try it for a few months. Now, I think it is causing my bladder to flare. I found something called "red yeast rice" which is supposed to help lower cholesterol. Do you know if this can affect IC? Are there other, more natural ways to lower my cholesterol that won’t hurt my bladder?

Great question! I can certainly appreciate wanting to find a way to lower your cholesterol that doesn’t involve additional medications or irritate your bladder. However, there are several things to consider when choosing a cholesterol-lowering therapy.

First, examine your total cholesterol level. Your total cholesterol (295 mg/dl) is considered high risk according to American Heart Association guidelines. This is a critical indicator of heart health and taking statin drugs can be an important part of controlling your cholesterol levels. Therefore, no matter what therapy you choose, it is important to work as a team with your healthcare providers and monitor your progress.

Second, although it can be tempting to try a natural product rather than a statin, red yeast rice actually has the same active ingredient as many prescription statin medicines and can cause many of the same side effects, including muscle weakness, joint pain, headaches, enlargement of the liver, and even kidney failure. Considering these side effects, taking a statin, which has a regulated formula, may be a favorable alternative.

Finally, in many cases, yes, people can lower their cholesterol by making some lifestyle changes. Try these cholesterol-friendly lifestyle choices:

    1. Regularly consume soluble fibers such as oatmeal, whole grain breads, psyllium seeds (Metamucil), legumes, and apples, if tolerated.
    2. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.
    3. Eat red meat less often.
    4. Include poultry and fish in your menus several times per week.
    5. Substitute monounsaturated fats (olive, peanut, and canola oil) for saturated fats (butter, full fat dairy products, and shortening).
    6. Consume omega-3 fatty acids by increasing your fish intake, ground flax seed, and/or taking a supplement.
    7. Get plenty of exercise (walking 30 to 60 minutes a day).

Work with a healthcare provider when making these or other lifestyle changes, ask about continuing to monitor your cholesterol levels, and together decide on a cholesterol-lowering strategy that works for you.

Good luck!

Julie Beyer, MA, RD

Posted May 12, 2010