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Cholesterol - drug treatment

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Cholesterol
Plaque buildup in arteries

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Description

Your body needs cholesterol to work properly. But extra cholesterol in your blood causes deposits to build up on the inside walls of your blood vessels. This buildup is called plaque. It narrows your arteries and can reduce or stop blood flow. This can lead to heart attack, stroke, and narrowing of the arteries elsewhere in your body.

Statins are thought to be the best drugs to use for people who need medicines to lower their cholesterol.

Alternative names

Hyperlipidemia - drug treatment; Hardening of the arteries - statin

Statins for Cholesterol

Statins reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and other related problems. They do this by lowering your LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Most of the time you will need to take this medicine for the rest of your life. In some cases, changing your lifestyle and losing extra weight may allow you to stop taking this medicine.

Who Should Take Statins to Lower Cholesterol?

Having low LDL and total cholesterol reduces your risk of heart disease. But not everyone needs to take statins to lower cholesterol.

Your health care provider will decide on your treatment based on:

You should take statins if you are 75 or younger, and you have a history of:

If you are older than 75, your provider may prescribe a lower dose of a statin. This may help lessen possible side effects.

You should take statins if your LDL cholesterol is 190 mg/dL or higher. You should also take statins if your LDL cholesterol is between 70 and 189 mg/dL and:

You and your provider may want to consider statins if your LDL cholesterol is 70 to 189 mg/dL and:

If you have a high risk for heart disease and your LDL cholesterol stays high even with statin treatment, your provider may consider these drugs in addition to statins:

How low Should Your LDL Cholesterol be?

Doctors used to set a target level for your LDL cholesterol. But now the focus is reducing your risk for problems caused by narrowing of your arteries. Your provider may monitor your cholesterol levels. But frequent testing is rarely needed.

You and your provider will decide what dose of a statin you should take. If you have risk factors, you may need to take higher doses. or add other types of drugs. Factors that your provider will consider when choosing your treatment include:

Higher doses may lead to side effects over time. So your provider will also consider your age and risk factors for side effects.

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References

American Diabetes Association. Cardiovascular disease and risk management: standards of medical care in diabetes-2018. Diabetes Care. 2018;41(Suppl 1):S86-S104. PMID: 29222380 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29222380.

Fox CS, Golden SH, Anderson C, et al. Update on prevention of cardiovascular disease in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus in light of recent evidence: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association. Circulation. 2015;132(8):691-718. PMID: 26246173 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26246173.

Genest J, Libby P. Lipoprotein disorders and cardiovascular disease. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 48.

Grundy SM, Stone NJ, Bailey AL, et al. 2018 AHA/ACC/AACVPR/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/ADA/AGS/APhA/ASPC/NLA/PCNA Guideline on the management of blood cholesterol: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018. pii: S0735-1097(18)39034-X. PMID: 30423393 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30423393.

US Preventive Services Task Force. Final recommendation statement: statin use for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in adults: preventive medication. www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/RecommendationStatementFinal/statin-use-in-adults-preventive-medication1. Updated November 2016. Accessed March 20, 2018.

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Review Date: 2/22/2018  

Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. 03-25-19: Editorial update.

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