Statins lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides and raise your HDL (good cholesterol). They lower your overall risk of heart attack and stroke.
Types of statin
- Simvastatin e.g. Arrow-Simva, Lipex, SimStatin. Simvastatin can also be taken in a combination medication with Ezetimibe which is known as Vytorin.
- Atorvastatin e.g. Lorstat, Zarator
- Pravastatin e.g. Cholvastin, Pravachol
- Rosuvastatin e.g. Crestor
How do they work?
In most cases, statins are the first medication prescribed to lower cholesterol. It is possible that your doctor will recommend a statin because your combined risk of having a heart attack or stroke is high, even if your cholesterol is not. This is because these drugs don't only lower cholesterol but they also reduce the chance of plaques cracking, meaning no clot and no heart attack.
Statins slow the process of atherosclerosis in three different ways. They:
- Cause your liver to make cholesterol slower
- Reduce inflammation in your artery walls
- Lower the chance of plaque rupturing in your arteries.
What's the catch?
You may experience some unwanted effects when taking a statin. These can include:
- Muscle aches
- Stomach upsets
- Liver damage (very rarely)
- Memory disturbance (rarely)
- Developing diabetes.
There are different types of statins, so if you are experiencing any of these, talk to your doctor about changing statins.
Statins are not just a one-off prescription. It is important that you keep taking them for the long term.
Grapefruit and grapefruit juice should not be eaten when you are on a statin. This is because grapefruit can affect the rate at which statins are processed by the liver, and too much of the drug may stay in your body.
What checks do I need?
You will need to be monitored with blood tests every three to six months. Once your cholesterol levels are controlled, you will have an annual blood test to check the dose is correct.
What should I look out for?
If you notice NEW muscle pain or weakness or brown urine, stop taking your statin and talk to your doctor immediately (within one day).
Some medications, such as macrolide antibiotics (Erythromycin, Clarithromycin, Roxithromycin etc.) are not safe to take while you are taking a statin. Tell the doctor treating you that you are taking a statin.