Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs have been on the market for well over a decade now and represent one of the biggest pharmaceutical money-makers in drug history.

But for as many statin prescriptions as are written every year, you would think that heart disease would have slipped down a notch or two from it‘s No. 1 spot in the "top causes of death" list. Yet it hasn‘t budged.

That‘s at least partially because, even though statins have proven beyond all shadow of any doubt that they can effectively lower cholesterol, they have yet to prove an ability to prevent strokes and heart attacks.

In fact, roughly 50 percent of all heart attack patients have what are considered to be normal, healthy cholesterol levels.

So, researchers are trying a different angle. Rather than more drugs to lower bad (LDL) cholesterol, they‘re developing new drugs to raise good (HDL) cholesterol.

The good news is, a lot of them work! They‘re actually raising HDL cholesterol levels by as much as 61 percent in some cases! But they‘re also causing an incredible number of heart attacks, kidney problems and death.

Pfizer had to pull the plug on an $800 million investment in an HDL-raising drug called torcetrapib for just that reason.

Of course, what Merck, Pfizer, Roche and their respective brethren aren‘t telling you, is that good old fashioned niacin will do the trick for pennies a day and no prescription. Sure, some people experience a mildly uncomfortable "flushing" from niacin. But it‘s very temporary and tends to go away once the body has grown more accustomed to the increased niacin.

It‘s a small price to pay when compared to the potential heart attacks, strokes, kidney failures or deaths that come with these "cutting edge" medications.

Of course, if you‘re just not into pills, exercise is also a great HDL-booster. It comes with no harmful side-effects, and more often than not, exercise is free!