What are Statins?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Statins are a group of drugs used primarily in lowering cholesterol. All the drugs that belong to this group have names that end with -statin. They are generally capable of lowering cholesterol levels by 20 to 60 percent.


Cholesterol plays an important role in the everyday functioning of the body. Unfortunately, it can also have a negative effect, contributing to the development of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a serious condition marked by the formation of cholesterol-containing plaques inside the arteries. These plaques can block the arteries, cutting off blood flow, or rupturing and causing a clot that increases blockage. The results of such blockages are very serious and can include angina, claudication, heart attack, and stroke.

Statins are used to help maintain functioning blood vessels.
Statins are used to help maintain functioning blood vessels.

When used to lower cholesterol, statins work in the liver to block a substance required in the production of cholesterol. This substance is called HMG-CoA reductase. Blocking HMG-CoA reductase leads to the depletion of cholesterol in liver cells and works to stimulate the removal of cholesterol from the blood as it circulates. Statins may even help the body reabsorb cholesterol that has already accumulated in plaques on artery walls. Furthermore, statins make formed plaques less likely to rupture and create harmful clots.

Statins are considered more capable of lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) than other types of medications. LDL is harmful cholesterol. Additionally, statins are useful for increasing good cholesterol, called high-density lipoprotein (HDL). They also serve to decrease triglycerides in the body.

Available in tablet or capsule form, statins are usually taken with dinner or at bedtime. Results are typically evident after a period of four to six weeks of use. Medications in this group are usually easy to tolerate and cause few, if any, side effects.

In addition to lowering cholesterol and decreasing the risk of heart attack and stroke, statins have been shown to offer other health benefits. For example, they've been shown to reduce bone fracture risk in some people. They may even be helpful in treating osteoporosis.

Despite the health benefits statins provide, there are some individuals who should avoid them. Individuals who are allergic to statins, have active liver disease, or drink excessive amounts of alcohol are not good candidates for taking this type of drug. Women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or breastfeeding should consult their doctors about the risks of taking statins. Those with histories of myopathy, as well as anyone dealing with kidney failure caused by rhabdomyolysis, should also avoid this group of medications.

Those who take statins should check with their doctors to see if it's safe to drink grapefruit juice, which can interact with the drugs.
Those who take statins should check with their doctors to see if it's safe to drink grapefruit juice, which can interact with the drugs.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


I will never take another type of statin. I have been on all over a one year period - even the natural ones you get at vitamin stores and they all gave me the same symptoms. I have to take care of my cholesterol through diet and exercise. I probably have liver damage and now I finally understand the pain in my leg muscles.


Three weeks on statins and suddenly I not only had muscle aches develop, but swelling, couldn't stay awake, and scariest of all, couldn't go pee! Since we were on vacation at the time, my husband suggested I stop taking cholesterol meds. Within 24 hours, the worst symptoms gone.

Only then did I realize it had also greatly fogged up my thinking, too, or I would have made the connection and stopped them myself. "Easy to tolerate and few side effects," really? And all this agony to lower moderately high cholesterol and avoid "family heart disease" because both parents died of sudden heart failure in their 80s! May God be that kind to me that I will have a full active life and go so easily.


I was prescribed simvastatin by my gp. After six months, my cholesterol had gone from 5.6 to 7.6, so my gp increased the dose to 20mg. A further six months down the line my cholesterol had increased to 12.9 so my gp increased the dose to 40mg. Not long after that my cholesterol level stood at 40.

I had been taking the statin for about a year when i started to get really painful pains in my feet. i couldn't swallow or breathe properly, had stomach pains, confusion, memory loss, swollen face, a trembling throughout my body. No visible shaking but it felt more like an extremely fast pulse. At one point it seemed i was never away from the gp's surgery.

I ended up in hospital emergency one evening. i was totally confused and had no control over my limbs. The results from that were that i was dehydrated and there was an unusual amount of white blood cells.

Following that i was sent for various tests. i had a camera in every orifice, blood tests, scans, you name it, i had it.

While i was on holiday i ran out of simvastatin and i noticed that all the aches and pains were easing, i could breathe and swallow normally. One year after i stopped taking statins my cholesterol level is down to 7.0. My gp put me on a different type of satin and within 28 days all the symptoms started returning. So once again i stopped taking them again. Now my gp wants me to take a different type?


what are statins made of?


how are statins made? is there any historical background about them?


How is it possible to overcome the enormous impact of statins on the mevalonate metabolic pathway?

They took me from perfect health to being ill in just 6 days.


How are statins made ?

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