How Do Statins Work?

Statins are prescription medications used to lower cholesterol. As part of a group of medications called HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, 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 can also work to:
  • Increase the liver's ability to collect and get rid of LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol)
  • Increase HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol)
  • Decrease triglycerides.
In general, cholesterol treatment begins with lifestyle changes (weight loss, exercise, and a low-cholesterol diet). However, if lifestyle changes alone do not lower cholesterol to a desirable level, medication such as statins may be necessary. The main goal of high cholesterol medication (including statins) is to lower LDL cholesterol levels enough to reduce your risk for developing problems such as heart disease or a heart attack.
(For more information on how statins work, click What Are Statins Used For?. This article provides an in-depth look at how these medications lower LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol, and decrease triglycerides.)
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