This post was sponsored by Kowa Pharmaceuticals America, Inc. Personal opinions and thoughts are my own.
More than 100 million Americans have high cholesterol and are at high risk of developing heart disease or having a heart attack. Statins are prescription treatments that are proven to be effective in lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease.
According to a recent online survey called ACTION*, 67 percent of patients say they weren’t told or can’t recall being told by their healthcare provider why a particular statin was prescribed. Results of the survey, which polled more than 5,000 people aged 45 or older with high cholesterol levels and who have ever been treated with a statin, showed a clear need for more doctor-patient dialogue about statins. Shockingly, as many as 50 percent of people stop taking their statin medication within one year of starting it.
That is why I am proud to support a new educational campaign called Take Cholesterol to Heart to help people understand their treatment options for high cholesterol and motivate them to speak up if they are thinking about stopping their statin.
Understanding how statins work and why they are important may help you be more effective in your cholesterol-lowering efforts. Let’s start with some of the basics:
Why Is It Important To Lower Cholesterol Levels?
Cholesterol isn’t all bad. HDL, the “good” cholesterol, is a soft, waxy substance naturally found in your body and is needed to digest fat, make hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, and produce vitamin D in the skin. Healthy people have high HDL cholesterol levels. On the other hand, LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, is a major contributor to heart disease caused by the hardening of the arteries. High cholesterol doesn’t have any symptoms, but if you have too much “bad” cholesterol, it builds up in the vessels and clogs the flow of blood. This sticky build called plaque reduces the blood flow through the arteries and robs muscle and tissues of nutrients and oxygen.1 When the plaque breaks off, it can float down the blood vessel and completely block the flow of blood causing a heart attack or stroke. Heart disease risk factors don’t only add up; they act as multipliers on each other. For example, if you have a family history of heart disease, having high LDL cholesterol levels exponentially increases the chances you will have heart disease, a heart attack, or stroke. Controlling cholesterol levels is essential, and statins are very effective tools in that effort.2
How Do Statins Work?
Statins work by blocking a liver enzyme called hydroxy-methyl glutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMG-CoA reductase) which is responsible for creating the “bad” LDL cholesterol in the blood. As a result, statins:
- slow the collection of plaque
- reduce the size of plaque buildups already in place
- reduce inflammation
- stabilize plaque that collects in arteries (preventing it from breaking free and causing a heart attack or stroke)
To get the most bang for your buck, you have to take your statin every day as your doctor prescribed. Unfortunately, people who experience side effects may be less consistent in taking their statin medication.3
What Are The Side Effects Of Statins?
Good communication with your doctor is the key to minimizing potential side effects of statin therapy, which can include muscle pain. However, you should never stop taking your statin without talking to your doctor and discussing your options.
Tell your doctor immediately if you have muscle pain or are experiencing any other side effects. Many patients find adjusting the dose or trying a different medication can make a huge difference.
Should I Avoid Grapefruit While Taking Statins?
Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can mess with your body’s ability to process many medications, including some statins. However, there are some statins that do not require you to avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice. Check with your doctor to learn more about your options.
What Else Should I Discuss With My Doctor About Statins?
- What other medications and supplements do you take? Statins can interact with other medications including protease inhibitors used to treat AIDS, oral fungal and yeast infection drugs, Vitamin B Complex, and other cholesterol-lowering drugs.
The ACTION survey also showed that patients may be unaware of the risks of drug-to-drug interactions. Despite the average number of medications (7.7) that patients currently treated with a statin are taking in addition to their statin, 76 percent who are taking another medication (either prescription or over-the-counter) concurrently say they are not concerned about their statin interacting with other medications or supplements.
- Are you pregnant or planning to have a baby? Pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, or intend to become pregnant should not take statins.3
- Do you have liver disease? Talk with your doctor about the risks of statins and liver disease.2
Do you want more information about statins?
Visit www.TakeCholesterolToHeart.com to learn more.
Seriously, don’t stop taking your statin without talking to your doctor first. If your current medication isn’t working well for you, there are other statins you and your doctor can consider. In fact, the ACTION survey found 24 percent of patients currently taking a statin say they had challenges with the first statin they took and 62 percent of past statin users said the same. Have that conversation with your doctor about your options to lower the risk of heart attack.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Kowa Pharmaceuticals America, Inc. and should not be construed to constitute medical advice. My personal story and opinions are my own. I am not a medical professional and am not qualified to give medical advice. Please talk with your doctor about your individual medical situation.
*Harris Poll conducted ACTION: The Statin Survey (Understanding Patient Adherence and Concerns with Statins, and Medication Discussions with Physicians) online on behalf of Kowa Pharmaceuticals America, Inc., within the United States from July 7- August 4, 2017, among 5,014 U.S. adults aged 45 or older, who have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, and have ever used a statin to treat high cholesterol. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Erin Bittner at W2O Group, 212-301-7226.