Statins’ Role in Lowering Your Risk of Heart Disease

Health Minute     Spring 2019

If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower your bad cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe a statin. They are one of the most widely used cholesterol-lowering medications prescribed today. And, according to the American Heart Association, statins are the only cholesterol-lowering drug class that have been directly associated with a reduction in the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Statins increase good cholesterol levels too; they block the production of certain enzymes in the liver that are responsible for producing bad cholesterol.

When Are Statins Prescribed?

“Patients are typically prescribed statins if they have had a heart attack or a stroke, if they have coronary artery disease or if they have certain comorbidities, such as diabetes,” said Mouhamad Abdallah, MD, a cardiologist with Middletown Cardiology Associates. “This type of therapy is called secondary prevention. It’s where we are treating someone who has already experienced something like a stroke or heart attack and we’re trying to prevent them from experiencing another.”

Statins are also used for prevention, to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. “This includes patients with high blood pressure, who smoke, or who have a family history of coronary artery disease,” said Dr. Abdallah, who practices with Premier Physician Network.

When Should Statins Be Stopped?

Side effects may cause your doctor to recommend you stop taking statins. Between 1 and 5 percent of patients who are prescribed statins will experience some type of side effect. Dr. Abdallah said the three main side effects include muscle aches and pains, elevated liver enzymes and uncontrollable sugar levels.

If this is the case for you, ask your doctor about alternative treatments. While stopping the use of statins is not immediately harmful, not taking any measures to treat bad cholesterol levels can have long-term consequences.

In addition to new treatment options, your doctor may recommend you try a different type of statin. There are up to six different types of statins, all of which can affect you differently.

Aside from medication, if you have high cholesterol, Dr. Abdallah suggests you carefully consider your lifestyle habits. A healthy diet and regular exercise can play a big role in creating the right balance between good and bad cholesterol.

For more information on statins, talk with your doctor or visit us online to find a physician.