March 2021

Statins Do More Than Just Lower High Cholesterol

About 40 million people in the U.S. take a statin drug. Statins are typically used to lower high cholesterol in the blood. But they have other important benefits, too. In fact, they may be prescribed for people with diabetes even when their cholesterol level is normal.

The names of these medicines are easy to recognize: They all end with “-statin.” Examples include atorvastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin calcium, and simvastatin. Here’s a look at how statins work and why you might need one.

What statins do in the body

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in the blood that can build up inside blood vessels and cause problems. Statins help keep the liver from producing cholesterol. This reduces the amount of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the blood. To a lesser extent, statins also help lower triglycerides (blood fats) and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.

But there’s more. Statins may also help:

  • Lessen inflammation in blood vessels, which works against the buildup of fatty deposits

  • Reduce the risk of having a heart attack or the most common type of stroke

  • Decrease the chance that people with heart disease will need a cardiac procedure

Who needs to take a statin?

For certain adults up to age 75, experts recommend statins as the first-choice drug treatment to:

  • Lower high LDL cholesterol

  • Prevent cardiovascular disease in people with diabetes, regardless of their cholesterol level

Statins may be helpful for many people older than age 75, too. Talk with your provider about whether a statin could be beneficial for you.

Discuss possible side effects with your provider as well. Most side effects are mild and go away as your body gets used to the medicine. Some people report bothersome muscle pain. If that happens, your provider may switch you to a lower dose or a different statin.

These medicines are known for lowering cholesterol, but the benefits don’t end there. For people who need a statin, research shows that the pros far outweigh any cons.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2021
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