For many people, lifestyle changes on their own are not enough to bring their high cholesterol down to a healthier level to lower the risk of heart disease. Many people will need to take statins, the main type of cholesterol-lowering drug.

Statins work by slowing down the production of LDL-cholesterol in the liver, where it’s made. Because the liver isn’t making so much cholesterol, it then takes cholesterol out of your blood to make bile with, so your blood cholesterol levels fall.

What are statins?

Statins are a type of medicine that are used to lower the cholesterol in your blood, helping to prevent heart disease and stroke.

  • Statins often work very well. They can reduce your LDL cholesterol by around 30%, sometimes even 50% with high doses.
  • You might be offered a statin if you have too much LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in your blood – whether it’s caused by your lifestyle or by genetic conditions which are passed down through families.
  • Like all medicines, statins can sometimes cause side effects. They usually don’t cause any, but if you do have side effects, it should be possible to switch to another statin or a lower dose, or try a different medicine.

Taking statins

If you start taking statins, you’ll need to keep taking them in the long term – as your cholesterol levels will rise again if you stop taking them. They come as a tablet which you will need to take once a day. They should start to work within two to three months.Have check-ups with your doctor or nurse and have blood tests to see how well your statins are working. This is usually after three months. You will have a cholesterol check to see if your cholesterol level has changed, and a liver function test to see if your liver is healthy.