Statins do more than just lower cholesterol
Statins are the most used cholesterol-lowering drugs around the world. They have been extensively studied and shown to be very effective at reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes by helping to manage LDL cholesterol. But lowering serum cholesterol is not the only way that statins can help your heart.
In addition to their cholesterol-lowering benefits, statins can also:
- Reduce inflammation in your arteries, which lowers the chance of damage.
- Minimize the risk of developing a life-threatening blood clot.
- Remove plaque from arteries that has not yet calcified. Plaque build-up affects blood flow and can increase your risk of a heart attack.
- Stabilize the lining of artery walls, making it less likely that built-up plaque will break off and cause a heart attack or stroke.
- Relax blood vessels, helping to reduce blood pressure.
New recommendations for statin use by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force suggest that all adults ages 40 to 75 be screened for high cholesterol and risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Even if you don't have high cholesterol, you may benefit from taking a statin.
Statins may help:
- People who already have cardiovascular disease
- People with high levels of LDL cholesterol levels (above 190 milligrams)
- People age 40-75 with no history of cardiovascular disease who have one or more risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, being overweight or smoking, and have a 10 percent or greater 10-year risk of a cardiovascular event (Do you know you risk for heart disease? Take our free online heart risk profiler.)
Those in the above group who have a 7.5-10 percent risk of a CVD event may benefit from statin use but the likelihood of benefit is smaller.
Most people experience few or no side effects from statins. If side effects occur, they are generally mild and often go away as your body adjusts to the medication. However, statins are not for everyone. You should talk with your doctor about whether statins are right for you.