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Statins belong to a class of drugs that help to lower cholesterol levels. There are different types of statins. However, each has a similar way of action.

Why Should One Lower Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is fat that is essential for the normal functioning of the body. It is made in the liver from the fatty foods consumed by us. However, too much cholesterol is harmful for the body. It starts forming small fatty lumps called atheroma. It starts sticking to the artery walls in the heart leading to atherosclerosis. Soon, the arteries become narrow, causing problems with the blood flow. This taxes the heart and leads to angina, stroke, heart attack and many other heart diseases. Therefore, in order to prevent heart problems, it is very important to control cholesterol levels in the body.

What are Statins?

Statins are a class of drugs that helps in the reduction of cholesterol level in the blood. They reduce the production of cholesterol in the liver. They may also help in reabsorbtion of cholesterol sticking to the artery walls in the form of plaques.

The most common types of statins used by people with high cholesterol around the world are atorvastatin , simvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin.

Who Are Recommended to Use Statins?

Statins are recommended to people who:

  • Are diagnosed with a pre-existing heart problem
  • Come under the group of high risk of developing heart ailments
  • Have high cholesterol levels
  • Are genetically predisposed to develop high cholesterol, that is, people with familial hypercholesterolaemia
  • Live a sedentary lifestyle
  • Are obese or overweight
  • Smoke a lot
  • Have diabetes
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Suffer from narrowing of the arteries, that is, peripheral artery disease

How Do Statins Work?

Statins tend to block the enzyme that helps the liver in production of cholesterol. This enzyme is called as HMG-CoA reductase, that belongs to the HMG-CoA reductase pathway. Statins have a similar molecular structure that allows them to enter the pathway in place of the HMG-CoA pathway. Thus,it reduces the amount of mevalonate produced that in turn takes part in production of cholesterol. This leads to reduction in level of cholesterol produced.

How Should One Take Statins?

One should take the drug as prescribed  by the physician. It is mostly taken at night. However, follow the instructions given by the doctor when you take a statin drug.

What are the Side Effects of Statins?

Statins are not free from side effects. There is a controversy related to statins and its side effects. However, most people tolerate the drug without any side effects. Those who don’t may suffer from common and less serious side effects like:

Some may develop uncommon side effects such as:

Some rare and serious side effects include:

  • Liver damage
  • Statin myopathy
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Myositis

Women planning a pregnancy, pregnant women or breastfeeding women should not take statins. One can try eating a healthy diet, exercising, maintaining their body weight and shape to lower cholesterol and avoid taking statins. However, in case of high cholesterol, one may be advised use of statins by their doctor. Speak to your healthcare provider regarding these drugs and their side effects. If you experience any side effect, bring it to the notice of your doctor immediately.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: March 13, 2015