Preventive Cardiology: Statins
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Commonly Prescribed Statins
Statins are primarily prescribed for:
If you already have cardiovascular disease, your doctor may recommend statins to reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Statin therapy may also be prescribed if you fall within a specific risk range for developing cardiovascular disease within 10-years. The risk can be assessed based on your cholesterol numbers and other risk factors. It can be done during a regular physical exam.
Mechanism for How It Works
HMG-CoA reductase is an enzyme that helps your body make cholesterol. Statins help to block this enzyme, which in turn causes your body to make less cholesterol. When you make less cholesterol, your liver makes more LDL receptors, which attract LDL particles in the blood. This reduces the amount of LDL ("bad") cholesterol in your bloodstream. Lower LDL cholesterol levels also tend to lead to lower levels of triglycerides and higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels in the blood. Statins have anti-inflammatory effects on blood vessels which help reduce the formation of fatty plaque on blood vessel walls.
Statins can interact with many medications. Below are some examples. But, you should talk to your doctor and pharmacist about the specific medications that you are taking.
Statins can interact with certain foods, herbs, and supplements. Here are examples of potential interactions:
If you would like to take herbs or supplements while taking a statin, check with your doctor first.
Other Potential Concerns
These conditions can affect how your body uses statins:
If you have any of the following conditions, tell your doctor before you are prescribed statins:
Common Side Effects
More common side effects include:
Less Common Side Effects
Less common, but more serious side effects include:
American Heart Association
US Food and Drug Administration
Heart & Stroke Foundation
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Last reviewed October 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 10/24/2016
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