What is statins?

Statins

Statins: Overview

Statins are medicines that lower your cholesterol and your risk for a heart attack and stroke.

Cholesterol is a type of fat in your blood. If you have too much cholesterol, it can build up in blood vessels. This raises your risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Statins lower cholesterol by blocking how much your body makes. This prevents cholesterol from building up in your blood vessels. This is called hardening of the arteries. It is the starting point for some heart and blood flow problems, such as coronary artery disease. Statins may also reduce inflammation around the buildup (called plaque). This can lower the risk that the plaque will break apart and lead to a heart attack or stroke.

A heart-healthy lifestyle is important for lowering your risk whether you take statins or not. This includes eating healthy foods, being active, staying at a healthy weight, and not smoking.

Examples of statins include:

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor).
  • Pravastatin (Pravachol).
  • Simvastatin (Zocor).

Statins interact with many medicines. So tell your doctor all of the other medicines that you take. These include prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, dietary supplements, and herbal products.

Take a statin regularly so that it can work well. High cholesterol doesn't make you feel sick. That's why some people may not feel that they need to take their medicine. But it's important to take your statin because it can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Talk with your doctor if you have side effects that bother you.

Statins

Statins are a type of medicine used to lower cholesterol levels and help lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. These medicines block an enzyme the body needs to produce cholesterol, thereby lowering the total amount of it in the blood.

Along with reducing cholesterol levels in the blood, statins reduce inflammation around the cholesterol buildup (called a plaque). By stabilizing the plaque, there is less risk that it will rupture and cause a blood clot that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Statins are also known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors.

What are some examples of statins?

Here are some examples of statins. For each item in the list, the generic name is first, followed by any brand names.

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • Pravastatin (Pravachol)
  • Simvastatin (Zocor)

This is not a complete list of statins.

How can you safely take statins?

  • Take statins exactly as your doctor tells you. High cholesterol has no symptoms. So it is easy to forget to take the pills. Try to make a system that reminds you to take them.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist before you use any other medicines, including over-the-counter medicines. Make sure your doctor knows all of the medicines, vitamins, herbal products, and supplements you take. Taking some medicines together can cause problems.
  • Call your doctor if you have side effects that bother you. There may be different statins you can try. Work with your doctor to find the right statin and amount for you.
  • Have a heart-healthy lifestyle. Eat heart-healthy foods, be active, don't smoke, and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Talk to your doctor about avoiding grapefruit juice if you take statins. Grapefruit juice can raise the level of this medicine in your blood. This could increase side effects.

Effects of statins on heart attack or stroke risk

For people at low risk of a heart attack or stroke, about 3 out of 100 will have a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years if they don’t take statins. About 2 out of 100 will have a heart attack or stroke if they do take statins. For people at moderate risk of a heart attack or stroke, about 10 out of 100 will have a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years if they don’t take statins. About 8 out of 100 will have a heart attack or stroke if they do take statins. For people at high risk of a heart attack or stroke, about 20 out of 100 will have a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years if they don’t take statins. About 15 out of 100 will have a heart attack or stroke if they do take statins.

Evidence shows that statins may lower a person's chance of having a heart attack or stroke, especially for people who are at high risk for one.

The tables above show the number of people who will have a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years, arranged by risk level.

The information shown here is based on the best available evidence.

How do statins work?

Statins lower the amount of cholesterol in your blood by reducing how much cholesterol your body makes.

Along with lowering cholesterol levels in the blood, statins reduce inflammation around the cholesterol buildup (called a plaque). This may lower the risk that the plaque will break apart and cause a blood clot that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Statins: Overcoming Barriers to Taking Them

Why are statins used?

Statins are used to lower cholesterol and the risk for a heart attack and stroke.

Statins: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You think you are having problems with your medicine.
  • You have aches or muscle pain.

What are the side effects of statins?

Some people who take statins report that they have more muscle aches. But it's not clear whether these are actually a side effect of statins. A less common issue is diabetes. Statins may slightly raise the risk of diabetes in some people. There are other side effects but they are rare.

Statins: Should You Take Them to Lower Your Risk?

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