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What are some facts about statins?

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Quick Answer

Statins are enzyme-inhibiting prescription drugs used to lower cholesterol and decrease the risk of stroke or heart disease. More than 25 percent of Americans over the age of 40 use statins, according to Everyday Health.

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Full Answer

Statins inhibit enzymes the liver uses to produce LDL cholesterol, the so-called bad form of cholesterol that may cause plaque accumulation in the arteries, which may lead to strokes, states Healthline. Additionally, statins may increase production of HDL cholesterol, the good form of cholesterol that transports LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and to the liver.

Statins are most effective in lower doses, and taking 20 milligrams per day may result in a 25 percent decrease in cholesterol levels, states Everyday Health. Doubling the dose of statins may be necessary for unhealthy patients, but doubling may produce only another 6 percent decrease in cholesterol levels. Doctors often prescribe statins to otherwise healthy patients based on family history or other risk factors, such as smoking.

Potential side effects of statins include liver damage and rhabdomyolysis, a condition involving severe muscle cell damage, according to Healthline. Recent research, as of 2015, indicates that statin use may increase blood sugar levels and increase risk of problems with memory, confusion or forgetfulness.

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