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Antioxidant: any substance that inhibits the destructive effects of oxidation.  Free radicals can cause this oxidation in the body.


Cholesterol: a fatty substance produced by every cell in the body that is vital for health.  It is a necessary component of all cell membranes.  It is the precursor to all steroid hormone (including estrogen, testosterone, cortisol, and vitamin D).  It is the leading organic molecule in the brain and is needed for brain function.  Blood cholesterol carries antioxidant vitamins to the tissue.  The majority of cholesterol in the blood is produced by the liver.  Excess of cholesterol in the blood can contribute to heart disease.


CoEnzyme Q-10: a coenzyme that is a constituent of every cell in the body that is used in the production of energy.  It is also a powerful antioxidant.


Fibrates: a group of cholesterol-moderating drugs in use since the early 1960s that includes bezafibrate, gemfibrozil, and fenofibrate.  Fibrates are used primarily to treat high triglyceride levels.  They can also help to increase HDL levels.


Free radical: a highly reactive atom or group of atoms with an unpaired electron that can lead to "oxidative damage."


HMG-CoA Reductase (3-Hydroxy-3-methylgluatryl coenzyme A reductase): an enzyme necessary for cholesterol production. 


HMG-CoA Reductase Inhibitors: synonym for statins.  Drugs that block enzyme, HMG-CoA Reductase, that catalyzes the rate-limiting step in cholesterol production.  


Lipid: any of a group of organic compounds consisting of fats, oils, and related substances that, along with proteins and carbohydrates, are the structural components of living cells. In addition to fats the group includes waxes, oils, sterols, triglycerides, phosphatides, and phospholipids.


Mitochondria: small cellular structures, or organelles, found in the cytoplasm of eukaryotic cells (cells with a nucleus; all plants and animals are eukaryotes, while bacteria are not). Mitochondria are responsible for converting nutrients and oxygen into the energy-yielding molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to fuel the cell's activities. This function, known as aerobic respiration, is the reason mitochondria are frequently referred to as the powerhouse of the cell.


Nicotinic Acid:  Better known as niacin (vitamin B3), nicotinic acid—in high doses—can be used as a cholesterol-lowering drug.  Niacin lowers LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides and also raises HDL-cholesterol. It accomplishes this by inhibiting the production of fat and cholesterol containing proteins by the liver.  The most common side-effects of niacin are flushing, itching and dizziness.  Slow release niacin (such as Niaspan) usually prevents these side-effects.


Resins or Bile Acid Sequestrants: a group of cholesterol-lowering drugs that include cholestyramine (Questran) and colestipol (colestid).  These medications bind bile that was secreted into the intestine and prevent it from being reabsorbed. The liver makes bile out of cholesterol. Since these medications cause the body to lose bile, the liver then takes cholesterol out of the blood stream and converts it to bile, thus lowering the serum cholesterol level.


Statins: a group of cholesterol-lowering drugs whose generic names all end in ‘-statin.’  This group includes lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), simvastatin (Zocor), atorvastatin (Lipitor), rosuvastatin (Crestor).  Statin drugs are HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors.  By inhibiting the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme, statins help to prevent the production of cholesterol within the body.  (In fact, their actual method of lowering cholesterol may be more complicated.)  Since the majority of serum cholesterol derives from this production, statins can radically bring down cholesterol levels.  The first statins became available in the late 1980s.


Definitions adapted from Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2003 © 1997-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


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Please email The UCSD Statin Study for any questions regarding this website. Last updated 05/08/07.