Statins for High Cholesterol
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How It Works
Statins help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. 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.
Why It Is Used
Statins are used to lower cholesterol and risk for heart attack and stroke.
How Well It Works
Statins lower the levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Statins lower the risk of a heart attack and stroke in people who have heart disease or peripheral arterial disease, had a heart attack, or had a stroke. Statins can also lower risk in people who have risk factors such as high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes. footnote 1
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
- Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
- Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
- If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
- Trouble breathing.
- Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Call your doctor right away if you have hives.
Call your doctor right away if you have symptoms of a rare muscle problem called rhabdomyolysis :
- Severe muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness.
- Dark-colored urine.
Statins don't cause side effects in most people. When side effects happen, they tend to include minor problems like:
- Muscle aches (not severe pain).
- Upset stomach.
- Feeling tired.
These common side effects may be bothersome but are not serious. Serious side effects are rare. They include liver problems, muscle problems, and diabetes.
The side effects of statin medicines are more likely when higher doses are used.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Before taking this medicine, tell your doctor all of the medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, or supplements.
If you have muscle aches when you start this medicine, tell your doctor. The aches may go away with time. Or you might be able to try a lower dose or a different statin medicine.
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.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to take this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
- Stone NJ, et al. (2013). 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the treatment of blood cholesterol to reduce atherosclerotic cardiovascular risk in adults: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, published online November 12, 2013. DOI: 10.1161/01.cir.0000437738.63853.7a. Accessed November 18, 2013.
Current as of: February 20, 2015
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