All About Statin Therapy
Statins are a type of medication doctors use to treat high cholesterol. They decrease the levels of cholesterol in your blood, especially your LDL or “bad” cholesterol. When bad cholesterol builds up, it increases your risk of developing heart disease and having a heart attack or stroke. Statins can be an important part of reducing this risk.
Talk to your doctor about starting statin therapy if you:
- Have an LDL cholesterol level of 190 mg/dL or higher
- Already have heart disease
- Are 40 to 75 years old and are at risk for heart disease within the next 10 years
- Have diabetes, are 40 to 75 years old and have an LDL level between 70 and 189 mg/dL
How do statins work?
Statins work in your liver. They block an enzyme that your body uses to produce cholesterol. They also lower inflammation in the arteries and can stabilize plaque buildup, delivering many additional health benefits. Clinical trials have shown that statins can help lower LDL cholesterol by as much as 50 percent and may lead to a longer, healthier life.
Some people get side effects when taking statins, like leg cramps or stiffness. If you have side effects, changing the type of statin or the dose may eliminate them. Talk to your doctor if you have side effects that are uncomfortable. But the most important thing is to keep taking your statin as prescribed.
What should you ask your doctor?
If you have high cholesterol, talk to your doctor about your options. Some questions you can ask are:
- What is my cholesterol level and is it within normal limits?
- What other benefits might a statin provide for me?
- Do you have diet and exercise suggestions to help lower cholesterol?
- Am I taking medications that might interact with a statin?
What about lifestyle changes?
In addition to taking a statin, following a healthy diet and getting regular exercise is a good way to lower cholesterol levels. Limiting alcohol consumption and quitting smoking is important, too. Check out these 5 lifestyle changes you can make in addition to statins to improve cholesterol.