What are statins?

Statins are the most commonly prescribed cholesterol reducing medication class in the United States and include Lipitor, Zocor (simvastatin), Crestor and pravastatin.  They work by reducing the production of cholesterol in the liver.  Around since the 1980’s, they have a long track record of safety and efficacy.  Various medical studies over the years have demonstrated their benefit at decreasing the incidence of heart attack and stroke in patients who have multiple risk factors or who have had documented vascular disease (blood vessel blockages).  Their protective effect occurs not just through the reduction of cholesterol, but also because they have anti-inflammatory properties.  Inflammation is felt to be a major component in the evolution of a heart attack or stroke.

However, statins are not for everybody.  They generally are not used in children, and should not be taken by pregnant women, those who are attempting to get pregnant, or those who are breast feeding.  Patients who drink more than 2 alcoholic beverages per day or who have liver disease usually are not candidates for statins, and statins can interact with other prescription medication.  Side effects such as muscle pain, nausea and joint pain may occur, and blood studies occasionally need to be run, both to see if the cholesterol level is at goal, but also to monitor muscle and liver function…..Richard R Samuel, MD     Family Practice and Urgent Care   Hayden, ID  USA

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