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Should you take statins to lower your cholesterol?

GEHA | June 23, 2022

The benefits outweigh common side effects.

Statins are drugs that help lower cholesterol in the blood. By lowering the levels, they help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Studies show that statins help reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and even death from heart disease by about 25 to 35 percent. Statins can reduce the chances of recurrent strokes or heart attacks by about 40 percent.

Statin drugs work by blocking the action of the liver enzyme that is responsible for producing cholesterol. Too much cholesterol in the blood can cause a buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries. That buildup can eventually cause the arteries to narrow or harden. Sudden blood clots in these narrowed arteries can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Statins include atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol XL), lovastatin (Altoprev), pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor, Ezallor) and simvastatin (Zocor, FloLipid).

Most people who take statin drugs tolerate them very well, but some side effects have been reported.

The most common side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Flushed skin
  • Muscle aches, tenderness or weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping or pain
  • Bloating or gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Rash
  • Low levels of blood platelets

Although side effects can cause discomfort, consider the benefits of taking a statin before you stop taking your current medication. Remember that statin medications can reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke, and the risk of life-threatening side effects from statins is very low.

Even if your side effects are frustrating, don't stop taking your statin medication for any period of time without talking to your doctor first. Your doctor may be able to come up with an alternative treatment plan to help lower your cholesterol without uncomfortable side effects.

The information contained herein is for informational and educational purposes only. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice and if you have questions regarding a medical condition, regimen, or treatment you should always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice from a qualified medical professional because of information you have read herein.

“Statin side effects: Weigh the benefits and risks.”, 14 January 2020.
“Statin Side Effects.”, 14 September 2020.
“Statins: What You Should Know.”, 22 March 2016.