Our bodies make and need some cholesterol for normal cell and body function. But too much can be harmful. Very high levels can promote plaque buildup in the walls of arteries and block blood flow as a result.
Unlike a headache, chest cold or stomach upset, high cholesterol usually has no symptoms. But it’s a big red flag when it comes to the likelihood that someone will develop heart or blood vessel problems.
Facts about Statins
Statins are often recommended to help prevent a first heart attack or stroke (called primary prevention).
They are also used to reduce the risk of having a repeat heart attack or stroke in someone who has already had one (called secondary prevention).In general, you should consider being on a statin if you: *
Remember: If your health care provider suggests that you take a statin, it’s all to help lower the chances that you will have a heart attack or stroke caused by atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD).
ASCVD develops because of a buildup of sticky cholesterol-rich plaque. Over time, this plaque can build up and narrow the arteries.
Your health care provider may have already talked with you about how a risk calculator can be used to determine your risk of developing ASCVD or having a heart attack or stroke. This calculator factors in things like:
Because your risk can change over time, it’s important to have ongoing conversations with your health care provider about what steps you can take to stay healthy.
Keep in mind that making lifestyle changes–in addition to taking a statin or other medication–can help protect your heart and improve your overall health.
Assess and determine your risk.
Begin treatment if you’re deemed to be at high risk for heart attack or stroke.
Come back for repeat testing.
Not all statins are the same. If you have a side effect with one or even several of the available statins, you still may be OK to take a lower amount (dose) of statin, a different statin or a (non-daily) longer-acting statin.
If statins aren’t enough to lower your ASCVD risk or, in the unlikely event you can’t take them for some reason, your health care provider may recommend non-statin therapies.
These might include ezetimibe, which blocks cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestine, and the newer proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitors.