Statins are a class of drugs that help to lower cholesterol levels in the body by reducing the cholesterol produced by the liver. They do this by blocking the enzyme in the liver that produces cholesterol.
By reducing the production of cholesterol, statins can slow down the formation of plaques, which can lead to blood clots when they rupture, resulting in heart attack or stroke. Statins can also sometimes work to reduce the size of plaques that already exist in the body. Statins may also be able to stabilize plaques, making them less prone to rupture and subsequently develop blood clots.
The statins that are approved for use in the US include:
- Fluvastatin (Lescol and Lescol XL)
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- Pravastatin (Pravachol)
- Lovastatin (Mevacor and Altoprev)
- Simvastatin (Zocor)
- Pitavastatin (Livalo)
- Rosuvastatin (Crestor)
Statins are most often used for treating atherosclerosis (the condition that causes the formation of cholesterol-containing plaque in arteries) that causes heart attacks, chest pain, strokes, and intermittent claudication in patients who have or are at risk of getting atherosclerosis.
Most patients are put on statins due to their high levels of cholesterol, with the main goal being to prevent the complications of atherosclerosis.
Statins can help to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death.
The most common side effects of statins include:
- Muscle pain
However, there are also some more serious side effects that can occur when taking statins. These include liver failure and rhabdomyolysis, which is the injury or death of muscle tissue.
Some patients also experience memory loss, amnesia, forgetfulness, memory impairment, and confusion. Symptoms can start as early as one day after starting treatment, but they can also start as many as years later after starting treatment. Most symptoms, however, are resolved within about three weeks after stopping statin.
Talk to you doctor or healthcare professional to find out whether statins are right for you.
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