Cholesterol Home > Statins

Statins are prescription medications used to lower cholesterol. They work by inhibiting a specific enzyme that controls the rate of cholesterol production in the body. The goal is to lower "bad" cholesterol levels enough to reduce your risk for developing problems such as heart disease or a heart attack. Potential side effects may include headaches, muscle pain, and stomach pain.

What Are Statins?

Statins are prescription cholesterol medications. Technically, they are known as "HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors." Statins are effective medications for lowering cholesterol, and some have even been shown to prevent heart attacks, strokes, and other similar problems.
(Click What Are Statins Used For? for more information, including possible off-label uses.)

How Do They Work?

Statins work by inhibiting a particular enzyme, HMG-CoA reductase, which controls the rate of cholesterol production in the body. This causes the liver to make less cholesterol. Statins also:
  • Increase the liver's ability to collect and get rid of LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol)
  • Increase HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol)
  • Decrease triglycerides.

When and How to Take Statins

Some general considerations to keep in mind when taking statins include the following:
  • Statins come in tablet or capsule form. They are taken once or twice a day, depending on the particular product.
  • Short-acting statins must be taken in the evening (near bedtime), while long-acting statins can be taken at any time of the day. Either way, make sure to take your dose at the same time each day.
  • Some statins can be taken with or without food; others must be taken with food.
  • For these medications to work properly, they must be taken as prescribed.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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