What are Statins?

Cholesterol is an important part of many of your body’s functions. However, too much of it can cause your arteries to become narrowed or blocked, increasing your risk for cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks or strokes. This problem is particularly linked to LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. For adults, an optimal level of LDL cholesterol is less than 100 mg/dL; a near-optimal level is 100 to 129 mg/dL.

Statins are prescription medications that disrupt cholesterol production in your liver, reduce LDL cholesterol levels, and increase the amount of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in your blood; HDL, or “good” cholesterol, absorbs cholesterol from your blood and transports it back to your liver. Statins are available in brand-name or generic versions and are typically taken as tablets or capsules once per day.

Statins are typically prescribed to people who cannot reduce their cholesterol levels through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes such as quitting tobacco products, as well as:

  • People who have experienced serious cardiovascular problems such as a stroke, heart attack, or peripheral artery disease
  • People over the age of 40 with an LDL above 70 mg/dL who have diabetes or are at high risk of heart disease

Statins are also often taken for the rest of a patient’s life to keep their cholesterol levels low, as these levels tend to increase with age before gradually decreasing later in life.

While most patients should not have much trouble tolerating statins, they may cause some side effects. These commonly include headaches, nausea, and aching in the muscles and joints. Rarely, however, statins may lead to more serious side effects, such as increased blood sugar, muscle cell damage, liver damage, or memory problems.

A cardiologist can help you weigh the benefits and risks of statins to determine whether they’re the right treatment approach for you. To schedule an appointment with a doctor at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Cardiology Department, please call (718) 206-7100.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.