Statins are one of the most prescribed drugs in the U.S., with more than 35 million people taking them. If you’re focused on lowering your cholesterol levels, chances are you’ve discussed this medication with your doctor (and if you haven’t yet, it might be a good idea). Join us as we take a dive deep into what statins are, what they do, and how they can keep you and your heart healthy.
Statins, also known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, are a class of lipid-lowering medications that reduce illness and mortality in those who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease. They are the most commonly prescribed drugs to lower cholesterol, and they work by preventing conversion of HMG-CoA to mevalonate, limiting cholesterol synthesis.
However, lowering cholesterol is just one of many benefits associated with statins; they’ve also been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. They may even help stabilize the plaques on blood vessel walls and reduce the risk of certain blood clots, though there is limited evidence for this.
In the United States, there are a number of statins available for use, including: Atorvastatin (Lipitor)® Fluvastatin (Lescol)® Lovastatin (Mevacor, Altoprev)® Pitavastatin (Livalo)® Pravastatin (Pravachol)® Rosuvastatin (Crestor)® Simvastatin (Zocor)®
Whether you need to be on a statin depends on your cholesterol levels and your other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, which affects the heart and blood vessels. If you think you may be a candidate for this medication, talk to your provider. They will be able to assess whether or not a statin prescription is appropriate for you.
Cholesterol, a waxy substance found in your blood, is required by the body to build healthy cells. However, if you have too much cholesterol in your blood, this can increase your risk of heart disease. With high cholesterol you can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits grow, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through your arteries. Sometimes, those deposits can break suddenly and form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke. By managing your cholesterol and keeping low levels in your blood, you decrease your chances of both heart attack and stroke.
There are no symptoms of high cholesterol, so the only way to know if you have it is through a blood test. It is recommended that everyone at the age of 20 and older should get their cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years. Your provider can order a lipid panel to check total cholesterol, LDL levels, HDL levels, Non-HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
Knowing your cholesterol numbers is a great place to start managing your cholesterol. Lifestyle changes are also key for reducing your risk of heart disease, whether you take a statin or not. Here are a few lifestyle changes you can make to improve your cholesterol:
If you’ve made a number of healthy lifestyle changes and your cholesterol – particularly your LDL cholesterol – stays high, talk to your provider to see if statins might be a good option for you.