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Posted on 19 Nov 2020
Statins are a group of medicines that can help lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. LDL cholesterol is often referred to as "bad cholesterol", and statins reduce the production of it inside the liver.
Having a high level of LDL cholesterol is potentially dangerous, as it can lead to a hardening and narrowing of the arteries and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
CVD is a general term that describes a disease of the heart or blood vessels. It's the most common cause of death in the UK.
The main types of CVD are:
- coronary heart disease – when the blood supply to the heart becomes restricted
- angina – chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscles
- heart attacks – when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked
- stroke – when the supply of blood to the brain becomes blocked
A doctor may recommend taking statins if either:
- you have been diagnosed with a form of CVD
- your personal and family medical history suggests you're likely to develop CVD at some point over the next 10 years and lifestyle measures have not reduced this risk
Many people who take statins experience no or very few side effects. Others experience some troublesome, but usually minor, side effects, such as diarrhoea, a headache or feeling sick.
Your doctor should discuss the risks and benefits of taking statins if they're offered to you. The risks of any side effects also have to be balanced against the benefits of preventing serious problems.
If you are worried about any side effects the statins may give you then it might be handy to know that they are mainly in the mind, according to a study that found there were similar complaints about dummy pills.
A review of scientific studies into the effectiveness of statins found around 1 in every 50 people who take the medicine for 5 years will avoid a serious event, such as a heart attack or stroke, as a result.
You may only think there is one statin however there are 5 types of statin available on prescription in the UK:
- atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- fluvastatin (Lescol)
- pravastatin (Lipostat)
- rosuvastatin (Crestor)
- simvastatin (Zocor)
Make sure to try them all or ask for a swap at your GP practice if you do not like the statin you are on. Remember your health is important.