Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels is important no matter what your age, gender or personal health history. However, factors like those often affect how easy those levels are to actually maintain. For some with high cholesterol, diet and exercise may be enough to help get you back on track. But for others, doctors may prescribe a cholesterol medication called a statin to ease the process.
Statins are drugs that lower your cholesterol and help to reject the plaque buildup on the walls of your arteries. Over time, this plaque buildup can block your arteries and lead to dangerous blood vessel blockages or heart attack.
“Statins are effective in helping lower cholesterol, but not something that needs to be recommended for every patient with high cholesterol,” explains Dr. Michael DeAngelis, cardiologist at Lankenau Medical Center. “If you’re a non-smoker living a healthy lifestyle but you’re still struggling with maintaining a healthy cholesterol level, then statins might be an option for you.”
In addition to lifestyle factors, health problems like diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure or poor general health might also make you more susceptible to high cholesterol and more likely to be prescribed a statin.
Dosage and Side Effects
Just as with any other medication, your statin dosage is dependent upon your cholesterol levels. The higher your levels of cholesterol are, the higher your dosage of statins is likely to be. Generally, dosages range anywhere from five to 80 milligrams.
While you’re taking your statin, you may notice some side effects like digestive problems and muscle or joint pain, which typically surfaces in patients who are taking higher doses of statins. Studies have suggested other more serious side effects as well, including possible memory loss.
“Memory loss can be a side effect of statins, but it generally presents as confusion and is a rare side effect,” says Dr. DeAngelis. “If you find yourself a little more disoriented or confused than usual after taking a statin, make an appointment to discuss it with your doctor.”
If you are taking a statin, these side effects could affect you, but you’re more likely to be affected if you are a woman, over 65 or have kidney or liver disease. In addition, the side effects will be resolved upon your discontinuation of the statin.
Dr. DeAngelis reminds patients who are taking a statin that medication is not enough to keep your cholesterol levels low. Eating right, exercising, managing your stress and quitting smoking are all equally as important as taking a statin.
“It is a lifestyle change. Just because you begin taking a statin doesn’t mean that you quit eating well and exercising. The routine needs to continue,” he says.
If you are struggling with high cholesterol and think a statin might be right for you, make an appointment to talk to your doctor, who can help you decide if it is right for you. Find a Main Line Health cardiologist in your area who can put you on the path to heart health.