Several medical practitioners prescribe statins to the patients with cholesterol problems. Although statins are known for reducing the risk for heart attacks and strokes, sometimes patients may ask why they need to take the medication — “why not just control the cholesterol with diet and exercise?” Many are also worried about the risks of muscle problems and diabetes that may occur with statins. To know the answer to these questions, it is important to understand statins and their role in lowering cholesterol levels and avoiding further health complications.1
What are statins?
Statins are medicines prescribed for lowering the high cholesterol levels in the blood. Their role is to assist the liver by eliminating unwanted cholesterol present in the blood.1 They are among the most commonly prescribed medicines worldwide for the lowering of cholesterol. They have shown promising results in improvement of health in patients, as well as a reduced rate of death by preventing cardiovascular diseases.2
How do statins work?
Statins reduce the production of low-density cholesterol in the liver, thereby reducing the level of low-density cholesterol in the blood.3 In doing so, statins stall the occurrence of several cardiovascular complications such as stroke and heart attack as well as coronary heart disease. They are also known to have anti-inflammatory properties, so they are helpful in cases where there has been an excessive build-up of cholesterol in the arteries.3
What are the dosages advised?
Statins are usually divided based on their levels: high-intensity and the low-intensity statins. Low-intensity statins are generally prescribed to those patients with a risk of developing cardiovascular complications, whereas high-intensity statins are meant for those patients who already have an existing cardiovascular history.3
Benefits of Statins
Statins are largely well tolerated in the body; however, a consult from your medical practitioner is vital for all the possible benefits and side effects that can potentially occur owing to your medical history and condition. Some of the proven benefits of statins are as follows:4
- Lowered lipid levels: Statins are among the most successful treatment methods in lowering the lipid levels in the body and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. They are also known to prevent further complications in patients who already have cardiovascular complications, regardless of age and gender and pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and other heart-related issues.
- Vasodilatory effect: Statins improve vasodilatation that is they allow the blood vessels to dilate, which is useful in conditions such as hypertension, smoking and high blood sugar levels in which the normal vasodilatation of the blood vessels is impaired.
- Anti-inflammatory effect: Statins have proven anti-inflammatory properties, which reduce the risk of coronary and cardiovascular problems.
- Prevents clot formation: Statins prevent the formation of blood clots and ensure the optimal flow of blood through the blood vessels. They are also known to destroy the existing blood clots in the body.
What are some of its side effects?
The use of statins is not free from some side effects. Here are some problems observed in the patients who have been prescribed statins:2
- Muscle-related ailments like myalgia and myositis
- Liver dysfunction
- Renal issues
- Neurological issues like mood disorders and irritability
- Drug interactions
Managing with statins
It is important to know that cholesterol-related problems require a certain kind of care. Whether on statins or otherwise, those with cholesterol issues should:3
- Exercise and maintain weight
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Eat the right foods in appropriate portion size
- Completely stop smoking
The regular intake of statins and some well-made choices can help you live a healthier, fuller life!
- US Food & Drug Administration. Controlling cholesterol with statins [Internet]. [Updated 2017 Feb 16; cited 2019 Dec 6]. Available from: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/controlling-cholesterol-statins.
- Ramkumar S, Raghunath A, Raghunath S. Statin therapy: review of safety and potential side effects. Acta Cardiol Sin. 2016 Nov;32(6):631-639. doi: 10.6515/ACS20160611A.
- Public Health England. Health matters: what you need to know about statins [Internet]. [updated 2019 Mar 18; cited 2019 Dec 6]. Available from: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2019/03/18/health-matters-what-you-need-to-know-about-statins/.
- Pinal-Fernandez I, Casal-Dominguez M, Mammen AL. Statins: pros and cons. Med Clin (Barc). 2018 May 23;150(10):398-402. doi: 10.1016/j.medcli.2017.11.030.
- Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al. Molecular biology of the cell. 4th ed. [Internet]. 2002 [cited 2019 Dec 6]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26848/.