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How do statins work to lower cholesterol levels?

A:

Quick Answer

Statins lower cholesterol levels by blocking the production of cholesterol in the liver, states WebMD. By doing so, statins lower LDL and triglyceride levels, and have a mild effect in raising HDL levels. Consult a doctor or pharmacist with questions regarding statins or any other medications.

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Full Answer

The body needs some cholesterol to work properly, according to MedlinePlus. If too much cholesterol is in the blood, it can stick to the walls of arteries, eventually causing narrowing and blockages. When diet and exercise do not sufficiently lower cholesterol levels, doctors often prescribe medications, such as statins.

Statins inhibit HMG-CoA reductase, a liver enzyme vital to the production of cholesterol, explains Drugs.com. Decreased cholesterol production leads to an increased number of LDL membrane receptors, which increases LDL clearance from blood circulation. Examples of statin medications include Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor and Pravachol.

Studies show that, in certain people, statins reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke or death from heart disease by 25 to 35 percent, reports WebMD. Studies also show that statins can reduce recurrent heart attacks or strokes by 40 percent.

While most people tolerate statins well, some people experience side effects, warns WebMD. Most side effects are minor, including headaches, muscle aches and diarrhea. In rare cases, however, statins can cause serious muscle damage that releases proteins into the blood that collects in the kidneys, causing kidney damage or failure.

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