What Are Statins Used For?
Statins are a prescription medication that doctors give people who have high cholesterol. This medication helps lower cholesterol levels by reducing the amount of low density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol, in the body. Certain types of statins are proven to lower LDL cholesterol levels by more than 50%. Statins come in tablet or capsule form and are taken once a day, possibly at a certain time or with food, depending on the prescription.
How Statins Work
Statins works to keep the heart healthy by blocking the liver enzyme during its production of cholesterol. This effectively reduces cholesterol buildup as less cholesterol produced lowers the chances of plaque buildup in the arterial walls. This buildup, if left untreated, can eventually cause the arteries to narrow or harden which blocks blood flow to the heart. Hardened or narrowed arteries can also increase the risk of blood clots forming, which can lead to heart attacks or stroke.
Since statins lower LDL cholesterol and may also increase high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels, they can help to stabilize plaque levels in the arteries. These benefits make statins a vital form of treatment for people with high cholesterol, as it promotes heart health by preventing high cholesterol from progressing into more severe illnesses such as heart disease and decreases the risk of heart attacks.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle while taking statins can improve the effectiveness of the drug. It is important to eat a balanced diet, participate in regular physical activity, limit your alcohol consumption, and avoid tobacco use.
Why Take Statins
Statins should be taken if you have high cholesterol or are at risk of developing heart disease. Risk factors for heart disease include having type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, along with using tobacco products. Doctors will typically prescribe statins for people who have high cholesterol (LDL levels above 190 mg/dL) that exercise and diet changes could not decrease.
They can also be prescribed for people who have an LDL level of at least 70 mg/dL and are 40 to 75 years old, who either have diabetes or a high risk of heart disease. Doctors will also prescribe statins for people who have had a stroke, heart attack, or peripheral artery disease. Your age, sex, and race will also play a factor in whether your doctor will decide to prescribe statins.
Side Effects Of Statins
Statin side effects can range from mild to severe, although most people do not experience side effects from taking this medication. Mild side effects of taking statins can include headaches, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea or constipation, aches in muscles or joints, difficulty sleeping, drowsiness, abdominal cramps and chest pain, rashes or flushing of the skin, low levels of blood platelets, and bloating or increased gassiness.
Less common, although still relatively mild, side effects of statins include hair loss, tingling sensations in your skin, and erectile dysfunction or decreased sex drive. Severe side effects that statins may cause can be confusion or memory loss, damage to your kidneys or liver, muscle deterioration or muscle pain, and type 2 diabetes or high blood sugar.
If you experience any severe side effects or other side effects such as dark urine, unexplained joint or muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness while taking statins, you should contact your doctor immediately. They may recommend that you switch to a different medication or stop taking statins completely. Pregnant women should not take statins at all, as it may increase the risk of birth defects.
Risk Factors For Side Effects
You may have an increased risk of experiencing side effects from use of statins if you have one or more of the following risk factors. These risk factors include if you take more than one medication to manage your cholesterol levels, are a woman, have a small body frame, are 80 or older, have kidney or liver disease, are prone to overconsumption of alcohol, or have other health conditions such as hypothyroidism or neuromuscular disorders.
Statin Food Or Drug Interactions
There are a variety of things that can affect the way statins work in your body and can cause adverse effects. Grapefruit juice is one such thing, as it contains chemicals that may change the way your body breaks down statins. Other medications can also react negatively with statins, including certain antibiotic and antifungal drugs such as clarithromycin and itraconzanole, protease inhibitors such as saquinavir and ritonavir, a cholesterol drug called gemfibrozil, heart rhythm medication known as amiodarone, and immune system suppressors such as cyclosporine.