Understanding Statins: Managing Cholesterol With Medication

Cholesterol is a type of fat found in your blood that affects the health of your circulatory system. The liver makes cholesterol in the body, and it’s also found in foods we eat. While the body needs some cholesterol to function, too much can begin to cause problems. 

Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, is what’s commonly referred to as bad cholesterol. Too much of it can lead to a buildup of plaque in the arteries.

When cholesterol levels are too high, dietary changes combined with a type of drug called statins may be necessary. 

What are statins?

Statins are a group of drugs that block the liver enzyme your body uses to produce cholesterol. If you have high levels of LDL cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe a statin to help reduce your levels. The brand names Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor, Livalo, and Altoprev are all examples of statins. They may also be combined with other medications for heart health, such as in the case of Vytorin and Caduet.

What do they do?

When you start taking statins, they block the production of cholesterol in your body. They also allow your body to reabsorb cholesterol that may be trapped in plaque on the walls of your blood vessels. 

Your doctor will consider all the risk factors you have at play before recommending a statin. Sometimes just being careful about diet can help, and if your other risk factors for cardiovascular disease are low, a statin may not be necessary. Healthy lifestyle changes will help either way, but statins are the drug of choice for helping get high cholesterol levels back under control.

Are there any risks?

Statins are extremely useful for lowering cholesterol levels, but HDL cholesterol, or good cholesterol, is also affected by statins. Your levels of HDL will go down along with LDL when taking statins.

There are some other possible risks as well. Statins can hasten diabetes in people with prediabetic symptoms, and in rare cases, statins can cause muscle weakness or soreness. There have been some cases of statins causing liver damage, though it’s very rare. 

Statins have been around for a while, and the risks and benefits have been studied extensively, but talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about the risks associated with statin drugs. 

If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels or have a family history of high cholesterol, schedule an appointment with Oklahoma Heart Hospital. We’ll help you track your cardiovascular health and get the treatment that you need.