What You Should Know About "Statin" Medications

Published: February 01, 2022
By Chiamaka Adadey, PharmD

If you have high cholesterol, you have most likely heard about a group of medications called “statins.” This group of medications is prescribed to treat high cholesterol but is also used to prevent heart disease in people at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease include prior heart attack, stroke, and having diabetes.


What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the blood. Your body makes cholesterol in the liver. You also get cholesterol through various food groups such as meats, dairy, and baked goods. Your body uses cholesterol to make hormones and vitamins. However, when cholesterol is high, it may stick to blood vessels and block normal blood flow to the heart and brain. This can lead to heart disease and stroke.


How do I know if I have high cholesterol?

High cholesterol does not have any symptoms and can only be found through a blood test. It is important to regularly have your cholesterol checked by your doctor and follow a heart-healthy diet. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults over 20 years of age check their cholesterol every 4 to 6 years. Some people will need their cholesterol tested more frequently because of an increased risk of heart disease.


How do statin medications help lower cholesterol levels in my body?

Statins decrease cholesterol by preventing cholesterol production in the liver.


What are some examples of statin medications?

Statin medications can be easily identified because they all end in “statin.” Some examples include rosuvastatin, atorvastatin, simvastatin, lovastatin, pitavastatin, pravastatin, and fluvastatin.


How do I know if my statin medication is working?

The only way to know if a statin is working is by having your blood tested. If you take statins, your doctor will regularly test your blood to see if your cholesterol level decreases. Your doctor may run additional routine tests and monitor for side effects.


Do statins have any side effects?

It is possible to experience side effects while taking a statin medication. These side effects may include muscle pain, liver damage, an increase in blood sugar, and confusion or issues with memory. Muscle pain is the most common side effect and may feel like mild to severe muscle soreness or weakness. For some people, it may occur only at the beginning of treatment and resolve with continued use. If you feel any muscle pain while taking a statin medication, talk to your doctor or pharmacist immediately.



Statin medications are safe and effective for decreasing cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease. Your doctor may prescribe a statin because your blood test shows high cholesterol or because you have an increased risk for heart disease. Conditions such as stroke, diabetes, heart attack, high blood pressure, heart failure, smoking, and a high-fat diet may increase your risk of heart disease. While taking a statin medication, it is important to let your doctor and pharmacist know if there are any changes with your other medications or if you experience any side effects like muscle pain.

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