Statins for High Cholesterol

By Sinovic, Dianna 
March 21, 2017

Statins for High Cholesterol

If you have high cholesterol, your goal is to reduce your LDL ("bad") cholesterol level enough to cut your risk for developing heart disease or having a heart attack. The higher your risk of these illnesses, the lower your LDL should be.

Although you can lower your LDL level through lifestyle changes such as a low-cholesterol diet, exercise and weight management, your health care provider may also prescribe cholesterol-lowering medication called statins. Maintaining your lifestyle changes will keep your medication dose as low as possible and lower your risk of heart disease in other ways.

What statins do

Statins lower LDL cholesterol by blocking a liver enzyme that helps your body make cholesterol. Statins also prevent the buildup of a fatty material called plaque in your blood vessels, reducing the risk for a heart attack.

To work, a statin must be taken as your doctor prescribes it, usually once a day. Within a few weeks, your LDL cholesterol level may have dropped by 20 to 30 percent. To maintain the benefits of a statin, you may need to take it for the rest of your life.

Possible side effects

Initially, your health care provider may monitor you for liver and muscle toxicity, the most serious side effects of statins. But such side effects are uncommon, occurring in only 1 to 3 percent of patients.

The other potential side effects, which any medication can cause, include:

  • Dizziness

  • Blurred vision

  • Headaches

  • Upset stomach, cramping, gas or heartburn

  • Diarrhea or constipation

  • Skin rash and itching

Tell your provider if you have any of these side effects. Don’t stop taking the medication unless your provider tells you to.

Medication tips

For statins to be effective, they must be taken as directed. Here are suggestions on how to take them:

  • Follow the fact sheet that came with your medication. It tells you when and how to take your medication. Ask for a sheet if you didn’t get one.

  • Take this medication only as directed. Regular dosing helps to control cholesterol. It will take several weeks to reach your LDL goal.

  • If you miss a dose of this medication, take it as soon as you remember, unless it’s almost time for your next dose. In that case, just wait and take your next dose at the normal time. Don’t take a double dose.

  • Take this medication at the same time every day.

  • Use birth control while taking this medication. Talk to your health care provider about which form of contraception is best for you.

  • Notify your doctor, dentist and any other health care providers that you are taking a statin drug before any procedure.

  • Use sunscreen (SPF 15 or greater), wear protective clothing and avoid excessive sun exposure. Statin drugs may increase your sensitivity to the sun.

  • Keep scheduled appointments with your provider to monitor blood cholesterol levels, effectiveness of medications and side effects.

  • Don’t stop taking this medication abruptly. Your cholesterol level could rise again quickly (this is called rebound).

Lifestyle changes

Your health care provider will also ask you to make lifestyle changes to help control your LDL cholesterol:

  • Follow a low-fat diet. Ask your provider for menus and other diet information.

  • Start an exercise program as directed by your provider. Exercise will help you manage your weight. To get enough exercise, aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most, if not all, days.

  • Stop smoking. Enroll in a smoking cessation program to improve your chances of success.


March 21, 2017


Created for Solution Center

Reviewed By:  

Carolyn BrownCarolyn Brown RN MN CCRN CNS,Godsey, Cynthia M.S., M.S.N., APRN,Lambert, J.G. M.D.