Studies show that one in three people living in the United States suffers from some form of cardiovascular disease. The most prevalent one, however, is atherosclerosis – clogging up of blood vessels due to the accumulation of fat in plaque-like deposits in the vessels.
The fat is usually referred to as cholesterol. It is important to understand that cholesterol isn’t inherently bad. It is used by the human body to synthesize hormones and vitamins (vitamin D). However, clinicians have categorized certain types of cholesterol as ‘good’ and certain types as ‘bad’ cholesterol.
This is, again, an oversimplification of cholesterol. Even the good ones in excess can be potentially harmful to the body. Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is usually incriminated in causing atherosclerosis, while High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is less so.
What Are Statins?
Reports estimate that nearly 25% of people living in the United States are prescribed statins. Statins are drugs administered in lowering the body’s cholesterol levels and thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Examples of statins include Atorvastatin, Simvastatin, Lovastatin, and Pravastatin.
How Do Statins Work?
The enzyme HMG-CoA reductase is produced by the human body in the liver to make cholesterol. Statins reduce the working capacity of the enzyme by adhering to it and limiting its function.
In effect, they:
- Lower LDL levels in the blood.
- Increase HDL levels in the blood
- Lower Triglyceride levels in the blood
- Reduce your chances of cardiovascular disease
- Reduce inflammation in the arteries
In addition to medications, your physician will advise certain dietary and lifestyle modifications. Both of which are part of the first-line treatment for reducing cholesterol levels in the body:
- Limit trans fat intake.
- Avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
- Limit alcohol intake.
Who Should Take Statins?
While one in three Americans have high levels of cholesterol, not all of them are prescribed statins. Your physician’s immediate response to increased cholesterol levels would be to advise dietary and lifestyle modifications.
Statins are a class of medications that reduce cholesterol levels. They are only prescribed in certain conditions, such as:
- People with LDL levels above 190 mg/dL
- People who have had previous cases of cardiovascular diseases (aneurysm, strokes, heart attack, limb pain, etc).
- Patients of Type II Diabetes.
- lPatients with familial history of hypercholesterolemia.
- Important Considerations
- Statins are to be taken only if your doctor prescribes them and exactly as they prescribe them.
- Statins are reactive with other medications and have certain side effects.
- Lifestyle changes are essential in addition to medication to lower cholesterol levels.
Side Effects of Statins
- lStatins cause liver damage in 1 out of 100 patients (caused by elevated levels of creatine kinase levels)
- The risk of diabetes
- lMuscle pain and weakness (myositis – a common side effect when statins are taken along with fibrate medications)
- Cognitive impairment
- Abdominal cramps
Statins are widely prescribed medications intended to lower cholesterol levels in the body. Increased LDL levels in the human body can cause plaque-like deposits to build up the vessels and occlude blood flow causing a wide variety of cardiovascular conditions.