What are Statins?
For those who have been told they have cardiovascular disease caused by high cholesterol it is likely that they will be prescribed a drug called a statins, which has been specifically developed to help lower the cholesterol found in the blood stream and vessels.
What Exactly is a Statin and How do They Work?When we eat a diet high in fats, our livers are forced to produce higher levels of cholesterol, which is then released into the blood stream.A statin is a drug that inhibits the production of cholesterol, causing the build up of cholesterol in the blood vessels to slow down, and in some cases reduces the size of existing build ups.
They are, however, more likely to be successful in their mode of action if taken alongside the individual making significant changes in their lifestyle by reducing fatty food intake, increasing physical activity and refraining from smoking, as these all encourage the development of blockages in the blood vessels.
There are many different types of statins, some more potent than others and your GP will decide which type is the most suitable for your needs, depending on the severity of the blockages, existing medications taken and whether you have been prescribed other types of statins in the past.
Why do I Need a Statin?Cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance in the body and is important for maintaining the function of all types of cells. For those who have high levels of cholesterol, the chances of developing atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries, are higher and high levels of cholesterol can contribute to these occurring.When the blood vessels become narrowed by atheromas, the chances of angina, heart attack, stroke and blockages in the vessels of the limbs are more likely.
Before a statin is prescribed, the patient will normally be required to take a blood test to determine the actual levels of cholesterol in the blood. When the drugs have been taken regularly for a period or around 3 months, another blood test will be needed to evaluate the effectiveness of the drug and also to check the liver function.
Are There any Side-Effects?The use of statins is seen as relatively safe as the side-effects reported have been minimal and include headaches, gastro-intestinal disturbances and occasionally fatigue.Severe side-effects are very rare and include liver failure and the development of a condition called rhabdomyolysis, which is a condition that affects the muscles and can be lethal. If you experience any muscle pain whilst taking these drugs, always seek medical advice for investigation.
Statins can interact with other drugs so it is always advisable to discuss current medications with your GP who will advise on the best times to take your selection of medications in order to minimise interactions. For this reason, patients must take their medications when directed and not all at then same time, which can be tempting if the drug regime given seems complicated. There are many devices available to help patients organise their drug schedules and these can prove very useful for those taking multiple preparations.
Always inform your GP of any liver problems experienced in the past and if you are pregnant, intending to become pregnant or are breast-feeding.
Statins are medications useful in the reduction of the production of cholesterol. The overall outcome will be more beneficial if combined with healthier lifestyle choices.