Cholesterol And Statins – What You Need To Know
Cholesterol is a lipid in the blood. It occurs naturally in our liver and everyone needs it to stay healthy — every cell in our body uses it.
Cholesterol is transported around the body by proteins in the blood, the building blocks of our cells. When cholesterol binds to a protein, it is called a lipoprotein.
Why is high cholesterol bad for you?
There are many different types of lipoproteins, but you may have heard that they are often referred to as “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol.” They are also referred to as HDL and LDL cholesterol, respectively.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as the “good” cholesterol because it clears the “bad” cholesterol from the bloodstream. It sends unwanted cholesterol back to the liver, where it is broken down and excreted, reducing the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular disease.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells in the body. When too much cholesterol circulates in the body, it sticks to the walls of blood vessels, hence the term “bad cholesterol.” It causes blood vessels to clog, harden and narrow, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
There are many different kinds of lipoprotein, but it’s generally divided into two broad categories: “good” HDL cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol.
If you’ve ever been told that your total cholesterol is too high, it means you have too much “bad” cholesterol in your blood and are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. However, high levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol can help control “bad” (non-HDL) cholesterol.
How should I control my cholesterol level?
When we talk about lowering cholesterol, we’re usually talking about your total cholesterol levels — your “good” HDL cholesterol, your “bad” non-HDL cholesterol, and your triglyceride levels (which can cause blood vessels to clog because it affects your health). Fat substance, can) we’re talking about.
There is no specific target for your cholesterol level. Instead, your doctor will look at your overall risk for heart disease and cardiovascular disease. This assessment includes whether you smoke and whether you have high blood pressure.
For a healthy heart, the goal is low LDL (bad) and high HDL (good).
What are statins?
Cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as statins, are prescribed to people with a higher overall risk of heart and circulatory disease.
Statins are the most commonly prescribed drugs in the UK to lower blood cholesterol levels. They work by inhibiting an enzyme in the liver called HMG-CoA reductase, which reduces cholesterol production in the liver and lowers cholesterol levels in the blood. There are several different types of statins, but they all work in the same way.
There are many different types of statins, so it is important for women to find the one that works best for them, just as it is important for women to find the one that works best for them and their body. Many people don’t need strong statins to lower their cholesterol. Your doctor or cardiologist can help you find the right statin for you based on your medical history and the cholesterol level they think you should be at.
If you are sensitive to one statin, you may not be sensitive to other statins. If you have questions about statins, consult your doctor before switching medications.
Do they work?
With all the conflicting headlines, it’s easy to get confused about the effects of statins, but there’s plenty of research to help us decide. Large-scale clinical studies involving thousands of people have shown that lowering bad cholesterol can reduce the risk of heart disease — especially heart attacks.
But won’t there be side effects?
Like any drug, statins have potential side effects. Serious side effects are rare and may return to normal if you stop taking statins. Muscle soreness is the most common, but many people don’t have it at all.
A BHF-funded research team at the University of Leeds has recently elucidated how statins cause muscle pain. They studied the effects of taking statins on muscle samples from mice and people taking statins. They found that in some people, statin therapy may cause skeletal muscle cells to release calcium ions. The release of calcium causes muscle cells to die, leading to statin failure and myopathy.
More interestingly, they also found that, contrary to previous belief, moderate exercise may be beneficial for these people. The mice that exercised while taking statins did not show any significant changes in their muscles.
So in the unlikely event that side effects occur, we can take steps to mitigate them, but we still don’t fully understand why some people are more sensitive than others.
Side effects of statins?
A BHF team at the University of Oxford, led by Dr James Shepherd, is carrying out research to better understand who is more likely to experience side effects when taking statins. To do so, they will compare a number of pre-statins clinical trials (a “web meta-analysis”). This will rank the dose level of each statin according to its effectiveness and side effects. Dr. Shepherd also plans to compare this information with the medical records of patients who took (and did not take) statins between 1998 and 2019, looking for evidence of new muscle symptoms, diabetes, liver damage, kidney dysfunction, hemorrhagic stroke and eye disease that may be caused by the side effects of statins.
Their goal is to create a risk calculator that doctors can use to estimate the risk of side effects from statins. This would allow doctors and patients to jointly decide whether to start, stop or continue statin therapy.
Are there alternatives to statins?
There are alternative drugs that can lower cholesterol levels in the blood, but they don’t work in the same way as statins. PCSK9 is a protein that prevents the liver from clearing cholesterol from the body. As a result, an increase in PCSK9 protein leads to an increase in cholesterol in the blood. More recently, drugs that limit PCSK9, known as PCSK9 inhibitors, have been shown to lower blood cholesterol in some people.
In 2016, the US National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended two PCSK9 inhibitors for patients with primary hypercholesterolemia or mixed dyslipidemia who cannot tolerate statins or who have reached the maximum dose but need treatment for high cholesterol. For more information, please visit
Tips to remember
There are many ways to lower your cholesterol, including taking statins (if your doctor prescribes them). If you have any questions about your health, why you are being prescribed statins, or how statins may affect you, consult your doctor.