Statins are drugs which lower the level of
cholesterol in your blood. There are different
types of statins, but they all work in the same way.
Why do I need to lower my cholesterol?
Statins reduce the amount of ‘bad cholesterol’
your body makes. Cholesterol is essential for your body to work
well, but too much ‘bad cholesterol’ (called low-density
lipoprotein or LDL) is unhealthy.
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 (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
Who needs to take statins?
Some GPs prescribe statins to people who are
healthy, but at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Statins can help lower their risk.
You can ask your GP for a health check to find
out if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Your GP or cardiologist can also prescribe
statins to prevent you having further problems if you have already
had a heart attack, a stroke or
peripheral artery disease, or if you have
When should I take my statin?
It’s important to take your medication
regularly as prescribed. The statins that doctors prescribe most
often should be taken at night. 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
Do I need to avoid other drugs or any foods?
Check with your doctor or pharmacist before
you take any other drugs. Taking certain drugs together may affect
how well they work.
If you’re taking simvastatin, avoid
grapefruit and grapefruit
juice as they can increase your risk of side effects.
Do statins have side effects?
Like all medication, statins have potential
side effects that are usually mild, easy to recognise, reversible
and very rarely dangerous. Statins are among the safest and the
most studied drugs available today. You should tell your GP if your
symptoms are getting worse or if you develop any new symptoms.
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.
You will 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 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's the difference between the types of statins?
All types of statins do the same job. 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 for.
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 drug is lowering
Statins and pregnancy
If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or planning
a pregnancy, you shouldn’t 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: