Understanding Statins and What They Do

If you’re taking cholesterol medication or know someone who is, odds are it’s a statin.


If you’re taking cholesterol medication or know someone who is, odds are it’s a statin. Statins are a powerful prescription medication that can lower the level of LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad kind) that builds up in the arteries. It’s often prescribed to those with diabetes, heart disease, or cardiovascular disease.

How do statins work?

When we talk about cholesterol, we’re often referring to a build-up of waxy substances in the blood that can lead to heart attacks or strokes. Statins can help clear these cholesterol deposits out of the bloodstream and reduce the amount your liver produces.

They do this by slowing down the production of an enzyme key to making cholesterol. As cholesterol production is lowered, your liver will look to pull cholesterol from your bloodstream instead. According to some sources, statins have been shown to reduce cholesterol by as much as 30% - 50%1. Of course, what you eat will still affect the amount of cholesterol your body makes.

Should I be taking a statin?

Your healthcare provider can review your cholesterol levels and other risk factors and help you make an informed decision on whether you should take statins. Besides your cholesterol, risk factors include tobacco use, exercise and diet, weight, family history, age, and more.

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Heart attacks and heart disease are often associated with men, but the truth is that over 44% of women are living with some form of heart disease, and it is the #1 killer of women in America.

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You’ll also want to consider the potential side effects of taking statins. While uncommon, statins may cause headaches, nausea, muscle and joint aches, a mild increase in sugar levels, and diarrhea. Statins do not increase the risk of dementia or diabetes. If you are using a statin and experience any negative side effects, please contact your provider immediately.

The benefits of statins can heavily outweigh the potential side effects, making them a powerful solution to high cholesterol. Just remember that statins are typically a lifelong commitment. Even if you are able to lower your cholesterol, you’ll likely need to stay on them long-term to keep your cholesterol down.

Not everyone with a heart condition needs a statin

According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), if you are between the ages of 40 and 75, you should seriously consider using statins if you:

  • Have one or more cardiovascular disease risk factors and a higher 10-year risk of a heart attack
  • Already have a cardiovascular disease related to hardening of the arteries
  • Have very high LDL cholesterol—anything over 190 mg/dL or higher
  • Have diabetes and a cholesterol level between 70 and 189 mg/dL2

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Ready to call a doctor? Use our Provider Search Tool or call Select Health Member Services at 800-515-2220 to schedule an appointment today.

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Are statins covered on my plan?

If you are a Select Health member, the easiest way to see if a medication is covered on your plan is to log in to your online Select Health account and search for the medication there. There are several statins available for use, including:

  • Atorvastatin (Caduet® or Lipitor®)
  • Fluvastatin
  • Lovastatin (Mevacor® or Altoprev™)
  • Pitavastatin (Livalo® or Zypitamag®)
  • Pravastatin
  • Rosuvastatin (Crestor® or Ezallor Sprinkle®)
  • Simvastatin (FloLipid®, Vytorin® or Zocor®)

For more information on statins and if they’re right for you, please contact your Primary Care Doctor. You can also call Select Health Member Services at 800-515-2220.


1 https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/should-you-take-a-statin-for-high-cholesterol

2 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/statins/art-20045772

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