What are Statins?
HMG – COA Reductase Inhibitors are a class of drugs most commonly referred to as statins and are used for lowering cholesterol. They work by blocking an enzyme in the liver that helps make cholesterol. Cholesterol may contribute to the plaque that lines artery walls and restricts blood flow, which may lead to heart disease or heart attack.
When evaluating cholesterol levels, doctors may look at both the HDL (“good” cholesterol) and LDL (“bad” cholesterol) as well as triglycerides (type of fat). Statins work to reduce the LDL levels, reduce triglycerides to a lesser degree and raise the HDL levels moderately. Statins also help those with coronary artery disease by reducing plaque, decreasing blood clots and reducing inflammation. Statins may also be used in patients when they do not have high levels of cholesterol, but have the risk of atherosclerosis (narrowing or hardening of the arteries).
Statins may be prescribed in instances of greater risk of heart disease such as a family history, diabetes or age. People with diabetes have twice the risk of heart attack or heart disease. Older people are generally at greater risk of heart disease.
Serious side effects are liver damage and muscle damage so the prescription needs to be monitored over time. Other side effects are nausea, gas, upset stomach, headaches, dizziness, rash, and sleep problems. Since the liver makes cholesterol at night, most dosages are taken in the evening. Grapefruit and grapefruit juice is known to interact with statins and should not be ingested. Statins should not be used along with other drugs that lower LDL cholesterol or drugs for AIDS.
The type of statin prescribed will differ in its possible negative effects when used with other drugs and also how much it will reduce cholesterol. Commonly prescribed statins are Lipitor, Zocor, and Crestor.