Statins: What are They and Who Needs Them?

You may never have heard the word “statin” before, but if you or a loved one are at risk for heart attack or stroke, statins can help to lower that risk.

02/03/2020

What is a statin?

Statins (also called LDLs, or low-density lipoproteins) are a class of medications that help lower your “bad cholesterol” and reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Statins reduce the production of cholesterol and improve blood vessel function. These medicines are often recommended for people at risk for heart disease and for adults with diabetes.1,2

How do I know if I should take statins?

The best person to talk to about your medications is your doctor. Your primary care provider (PCP) or specialist may prescribe a statin if you have diabetes, heart disease, or have had bypass surgery, a stent placement, a heart attack, or a stroke caused by a blocked artery.  The American Diabetes Association Guidelines recommend that diabetics between the ages 40 of 75 receive statin therapy, even if they do not have high cholesterol levels, since statistics show that more than two out of three people who are age 65 or older and have diabetes die from some form of heart disease.

Are there side effects?

Most people who take statins do not experience any side effects, but some report muscle pain or soreness. Less common side effects associated with statins include liver problems, headache, constipation and mild abdominal pain. If you think you are experiencing any of these symptoms, let your doctor know right away. Do not stop taking your medication, as this can increase your risk of cardiovascular issues. With careful monitoring, most people who experience side effects are still able to safely take a statin.

How do I take statins?

As with any medications, it is essential to follow your doctor’s instructions when taking statins. Always talk to your doctor before starting or stopping a medicine, if you miss a dose, or if you have questions about any medicine you take. Pay attention to how many refills you have left and mark your calendar to remember to get a refill before you run out.

With statins, in particular, it’s very important to take statin medications every day – do not skip doses, as doing so can greatly increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, or other serious outcomes.3

Need help remembering to take your medication? Here are some tips to help you stay on top of your prescriptions.  

 

 

 

 

References

1Grundy SM, Stone NJ, Bailey AL, et al. 2018 AHA/ACC/AACVPR/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/ADA/AGS/APhA/ASPC/NLA/PCNA guideline on the management of blood cholesterol: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2019;139: e1082–e1143. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000625.

2American Diabetes Association. Improving care and promoting health in populations: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes - 2019. Diabetes Care. 2019;42 (Suppl. 1).

3Gehi AK, Ali S, Beeya N, Whooley MA. Self-reported Medication Adherence and Cardiovascular Events in Patients with Stable Coronary Heart Disease. Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(16):1798-1803.

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