Statins may help prevent cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and other conditions.
Statins are cholesterol-lowering medicines. They work by blocking an enzyme in the liver that's responsible for making cholesterol.
The drugs may prevent cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, and death in high-risk people who are unable to lower their cholesterol levels with diet and exercise alone.
Researchers are also studying how statins affect cancer, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other conditions.
Some commonly-prescribed statins include:
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- Fluvastatin (Lescol)
- Lovastatin (Altoprev)
- Pitavastatin (Livalo)
- Pravastatin (Pravachol)
- Rosuvastatin (Crestor)
- Simvastatin (Zocor)
There is also a small amount of statin compound in red yeast rice.
In the early 1970s, Japanese researcher Akira Endo made the first discovery that led to the development of statin drugs.
In 2003, the statin Lipitor became the best-selling pharmaceutical drug in history.
Today, generic forms of some statins are available at a lower cost.
Guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology suggest the following four groups of people may benefit from statins:
- People who already have heart disease (including anyone who has had a heart attack, stroke, mini-stroke or TIA, peripheral artery disease, or surgery to open or replace coronary arteries
- People who have high LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels (190 mg/dL or higher) without other risk factors for cardiovascular disease
- People with diabetes, including adults who have diabetes and LDL levels between 70 and 189 mg/dL)
- People who have a higher ten-year risk of having a heart attack (including those who have LDL levels higher than 100 mg/dL and whose ten-year risk of a heart attack is 7.5 percent or higher)
Statin Side Effects
Statins can cause side effects such as:
- Muscle or joint pain
In rare instances, the drugs can cause liver failure, memory loss, or a serious skeletal muscle condition known as rhabdomyolysis.
Statins and Diabetes
If you take a statin, there's a slightly increased risk that you could develop type 2 diabetes.
Talk to your doctor about this possibility.
CoQ10 and Statins
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a substance that your body makes naturally. It's also available as an oral dietary supplement.
There are some anecdotal reports and small research studies that suggest CoQ10 may help prevent side effects associated with statins.
Larger clinical trials need to be conducted to confirm the link.
Statins and Pregnancy
Although the risk of birth defects related to taking statins appears to be small, pregnant women need to reduce the risk as much as possible.
Do not take statins if you are pregnant or breastfeeding without speaking to your doctor first.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Statins: Are These Cholesterol-lowering Drugs Right for You? Mayo Clinic
- Statins, MedlinePlus, National Institutes of Health
- FDA Expands Advice on Statin Risk, FDA
- Can Coenzyme Q10 reduce the risk of side effects from statins? Mayo Clinic