What are statins?

Statins are a class of powerful cholesterol lowering medications that are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in the US. There are many different statin drugs, all taken as a pill. Common ones include:

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • Fluvastatin (Lescol)
  • Lovastatin (Altocor, Mevacor)
  • Pravastatin (Pravachol)
  • Simvastatin (Zocor)
  • Rosuvastatin (Crestor)

Statins are also given in combination pills with other drugs:

  • Vytorin – simvastatin and ezetimibe (another cholesterol drug )
  • Advicor – lovastatin and niacin (another cholesterol drug)
  • Caduet – atorvastatin and amlodipine (a high blood pressure drug)

Statins reduce the production of cholesterol in the liver by blocking an enzyme called HMG CoA reductase; they are sometimes called HMG CoA reductase inhibitors. They are very effective at lowering total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, making them the drug of choice for most women with high cholesterol.

Statins are also used to reduce the risk of dying or having a heart attack or stroke in women with heart disease, and they are increasingly prescribed to women at risk for heart and blood vessel problems even if their cholesterol levels are normal.

For more information on statins and how they are used to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease, see our article on Statins in the coronary artery disease section of this web site.

Can statins prevent a first stroke?

Statins reduce the chances of having a first stroke by about 30% in women who have high cholesterol. Statins also reduce the risk of a first stroke in women with normal cholesterol levels, but who are at risk for stroke because they have heart disease or other important risk factors for stroke, such as diabetes.

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