What Do I Need to Know About Statins to Lower Cholesterol?

Statins are also called HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. They are the medicines of choice for lowering cholesterol.

When Are Statins Prescribed?

Your doctor is likely to prescribe a statin to help lower your cholesterol if any of the following apply to you.
  • You have high LDL - known as the bad cholesterol.
  • You have severe high cholesterol or coronary heart disease, called CHD.
  • You are middle-aged or older and have multiple risk factors for heart disease.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have certain types of inherited high cholesterol or high cholesterol caused by the kidney disease called nephrotic syndrome.
If your doctor has prescribed a statin for you, be sure to take it as directed.

Common Names of Statins

The following table shows some of the most common brand and generic names for this type of medicine.

brand generic
Lescol fluvastatin Na
Lipitor atorvastatin Ca
Mevacor lovastatin
Pravachol pravastatin Na
Zocor simvastatin

How to Take It

Statins are usually taken by tablet or capsule once a day, usually in the evening.

How Statins Work

Statins work by blocking a substance that your liver needs in order to make cholesterol. That means less cholesterol is released into your circulating blood. Statins are very effective in lowering LDL - the bad cholesterol - by 18% to 55%. They may also raise HDL - the good cholesterol - by 5% to 15%. In addition, they may decrease triglycerides by 7% to 30%.