Statins are the most commonly prescribed
medicines in the UK. They work to lower the level of cholesterol in
your blood. There are different types of statins, but they all work
in much the same way.
Why do I need to lower my cholesterol?
essential for your body to work well, but too much ‘bad
cholesterol’ (called low-density lipoprotein or
LDL) is unhealthy. Statins reduce the amount of ‘bad cholesterol’
your body makes.
High levels of ‘bad cholesterol’ in your blood
can lead to fatty deposits building up in your
arteries. This can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, which includes
conditions such as coronary heart
disease (leading to angina and
heart attack) and stroke.
Your body will always make cholesterol so if
you stop taking a statin, it’s likely your cholesterol levels will
rise. If you are prescribed a statin, you need to take it every
day. Statins are most beneficial when you take them on a long-term
Why do I need to take statins?
If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, you
may be advised to take statins in order to reduce your risk of
another event. If you have peripheral arterial disease statins can
help to slow the progression. If you are diabetic, you are at a much higher risk of
developing cardiovascular disease, and taking statins will help to
reduce this risk.
Even if you’re in good health, you may be
prescribed statins if you’re at high risk of developing
cardiovascular disease, for example, if you have a strong family
history of cardiovascular disease. Statins can help lower your
When should I take my statin?
It’s important to take your medication
regularly as prescribed. Most statins are taken at night, as this
is when most of your cholesterol is produced. Check with your
doctor or pharmacist when you should be taking your statin.
Most statins come as tablets. The most common
one is simvastatin.
Look up your medication on the Medicine Guides
Are there any foods, drinks or other medications I
Check with your doctor or pharmacist before
you take any other medications. Taking certain medicines together
may affect how well they work.
If you’re taking simvastatin or atorvastatin,
avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice as they can
increase your risk of side effects.
If you take another type of statin, limit your
intake of grapefruit juice to very small quantities or you may want
to avoid it all together.
Do statins have side effects?
Like all medication, statins have potential
side effects. The most common are muscular aches and pains, but
many people experience none at all. Statins are among the safest
and the most studied medications available today.
If you do experience side effects, or if your
side effects change or become worse, tell your GP.
Statins target the liver
cells where cholesterol is made. Before you start taking
statins, you will have a blood test to
check how well your liver works. Your doctor may request that you
have a follow-up blood test a few months later. If your liver is
affected, your doctor may want to reduce your dose or change your
statin to another kind of medication that lowers your
Find out about other possible side effects
Statins information sheet.
Can I buy statins over the counter?
Low-dose statins are available at some
pharmacies without a prescription, but they are not a substitute
for prescription statins or for making lifestyle changes to reduce
your cholesterol level. If you are at high risk of heart disease,
your doctor may prescribe a statin for you.
What are the differences between statins?
Lots of people don’t need a strong statin to
reduce their cholesterol level. Your GP or cardiologist will find
the right statin for you, depending on your
medical history and the cholesterol level they think you should aim
If you’re sensitive to one statin, you might
not be sensitive to another. You should have a blood test after any
change of statin to see how effectively the new medicine is
lowering your cholesterol.
Can I take a statin if I'm pregnant?
If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or planning
a pregnancy, you should not take statins. If you’re already taking
statins but would like to become pregnant, speak to your GP
How else can I lower my cholesterol?
You can also lower your cholesterol by: