What is a Statin Drug and How Does it Work?

If you have high cholesterol there is a good chance your doctor may have discussed the possibility of prescription statin drugs with you. 

Statin drugs are a class of drug used to reduce cholesterol levels.    The UT Southwestern Medical Center states “Statins are the gold-standard for high cholesterol treatment. They’re a powerful medication, and they’ve been proven to save the lives of many men and women living with or having a high risk of heart attack or stroke.”

What do Statin Drugs Do?

Your liver needs an enzyme called HMG CoA Reductase to make cholesterol.  Statin drugs block this substance, which then prevents your liver from creating cholesterol.

Your doctor will decide if you need to take a statin drug to reduce your cholesterol.  In 2013 the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association developed guidelines to ensure doctors prescribe statins only to people who really need them.  These guidelines were updated in 2019.   Doctors look at several factors including family history, the overall health of the patient, their risk of cardiac disease, blood pressure, age, sex, history of smoking and whether or not they have diabetes.

Statins may be recommended for adults who fall into these four categories:

  • Age 40 to 75 years of age with type 2 diabetes
  • Age 40 to 75 years of age and have a 10 year risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) higher than 7.5%
  • Have an LDL Cholesterol of 190mg/dL or higher
  • Have ASCVD, a personal history of stroke, heart attack, angina, or peripheral vascular disease.

Some common prescription statin drugs include:

Statin drug side effects

The majority of people who take statins have minor or no side effects at all. Some side effects may include muscle aches, headache, bloating, pins and needles sensations, or general unwellness.   Speak to your pharmacist about any concerns you may have regarding side effects.

Are prescription statin drugs safe?

There is a lot of misinformation around statin drugs and this leads to fear. In fact, you will find misinformation on many websites about many prescription and non-prescription medications. This is why it is important to have an open dialogue with your doctor and your pharmacist about your health and your plans to manage your health with medication.  Statin drugs help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, and so the question is whether the benefits outweigh the potential risks.  It is recommended you speak to your doctor about your own health risks and whether statin drugs are right for you.

If you have questions about any of these prescription medications or any other medication, please contact our team at Canada Online Health by calling toll free 1-800-399-DRUG (3784). One of our discreet pharmacy representatives will be happy to answer your questions.

This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor.  It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation.  If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).

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