Q:

What is a statin, and how does it help cholesterol?

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Quick Answer

Statins are drugs that help lower cholesterol levels by blocking a substance in the body necessary to produce cholesterol, according to Mayo Clinic. Statins may reduce heart attack risk by slowing blood vessel blockage and assisting the body to reabsorb cholesterol buildup on artery walls. Drugs including rosuvastatin, marketed as Crestor, and atorvastatin, marketed as Lipitor, are among statins available as of 2016. Statins may help people with very high bad cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, high heart attack risk and diabetes.

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Full Answer

A total cholesterol level below 200 milligrams per deciliter, with a low-density lipoprotein, LDL or bad cholesterol level below 100 milligrams per deciliter are appropriate levels for most people, explains Mayo Clinic. Whether people should take statins to lower their cholesterol levels depends on several factors linked to cardiovascular disease.

An individual's stroke or heart attack risk over a long time is the most significant factor in the decision to take statins, notes Mayo Clinic. Statins are probably not necessary for someone with a low risk long-term unless the LDL cholesterol level exceeds 190 milligrams per deciliter. Statins may be right for someone who has experienced a heart attack, even if the person does not have high cholesterol levels. Other considerations include gender, age, race and blood pressure levels. In addition, doctors consider whether an individual smokes cigarettes or has diabetes before making recommendations about using statins.

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