Statins are a class of prescription drugs used to treat high cholesterol, a condition in which fatty deposits build up in your blood stream and along your arteries. You may be able to reduce your cholesterol simply by making extreme changes in diet and lifestyle; however, according to MayoClinic.com, if a statin is the only treatment that works for you, using this medication is a lifelong commitment. The best statin for reducing cholesterol is the medication your doctor prescribes.
Statins work by inhibiting cholesterol production your liver, which in turn takes it out of your bloodstream. These medications can also reduce the amount fatty deposits, known as “plaques,” that build up on your arteries as well. According to MayoClinic.com, your doctor may suggest that you take a statin if your total cholesterol level is 240 mg/dL or higher or your low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level is 130 mg/dL or higher. However, high cholesterol alone may not warrant use of prescription medication, if you can reduce it through exercise and dietary changes. Before your doctor recommends you take statin medications, other factors are taken into consideration, specifically if you’re more at risk for heart disease.
There were six prescription statins on the consumer market in November 2010, including atrovastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin. The best statin for reducing your cholesterol is largely dependent on your individual needs and current health status. A March 2002 article published in American Family Physician indicates that if your LDL cholesterol needs to be reduced by more than 35 percent, atorvastatin, rosuvastatin or simvastatin may be more appropriate. If LDL cholesterol reduction of less than 35 percent is needed and you have impaired renal function, your doctor may prescribe atorvastatin or fluvastatin. Fluvastatin or pravastatin may be used when you take other medications that may interact negatively with statin drugs.
Sore, tired, weak muscles is the most common side effect associated with statin use. Nausea, gas, diarrhea and constipation occur less frequently. Of more concern is potential liver damage caused by taking statin medications. According to MayoClinic.com, whenever you take any statin medication, you should have your liver function tested around six weeks after starting treatment and again every three to six months during the first year.
A dietary supplement called red yeast rice is often marketed as a natural statin, and according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, this alternative treatment does have some scientific research to back it up. The red yeast rice used in clinical trials contained an active constituent called monacolin K, which is almost identical to the prescription medication lovastatin. However, the most important thing to know about the red yeast rice you see on the market is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that the supplements functioned as a drug rather than a dietary supplement. Lacking FDA approval, red yeast rice supplement makers were ordered to remove all product from the shelves that contained monacolin K. It’s unlikely that commercially available red yeast rice supplements contain any natural statins.
Ask Your Doctor
If you have high cholesterol, talk to your doctor to see if a statin is right for you. Don’t self-diagnose or self-treat using over-the-counter dietary supplements. Equally important to lowering high cholesterol is eating a heart-healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats and dietary cholesterol and getting regular exercise.