Cholesterol and Statins

What is cholesterol?

In short cholesterol is a fatty substance within the blood which is produced in the liver.  Its main functions are to help with cell membrane production, Hormone production, Vitamin D synthesis as well as aiding the digestion of fatty foods through bile production. However, if we have too much cholesterol this can cause our arteries to become narrow or even blocked, putting ourselves at risk of heart disease and / or stroke (Medline, 2020).

What are the risk factors?

Age – cholesterol levels are known to increase as you get older

Hereditary – High cholesterol can run in families

Weight – being overweight can cause high levels of cholesterol

Lifestyle – Eating too much saturated fats, smoking and lack of exercise

In order to prevent a heart attack / heart disease or stroke, medications such as STATINS are given with the aim to lower the cholesterol level (the dosage will depend on the individuals’ level which can be identified from a blood test).

What medications help to lower cholesterol?

Image result for atorvastatin 20mg

Common medications which you will get to see on placement are:

Atorvastatin (aka- Lipitor) and simvastatin

However, pravastatin, rosuvastatin and Fluvastatin are also used but are less common and more expensive.

They come in different strengths such as: 5mg (rosuvastatin), 10mg, 20mg, 40mg, 80mg.

Ezetimibe is also used to treat high cholesterol, and is usually prescribed for those who are unable to take statins (NHS, 2019). These usually come in 10mg tablets.

Statins are usually taken in the evening; however, it is not uncommon to see patients take it in the morning.

Did you also know that when someone is on a statin, they should NOT have grapefruit?  The reason for this is grapefruit can increase the levels of statin within the blood causing an increase in side effects (NHS, 2018).

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Some people, however, may not require medication to lower their cholesterol. Simply adopting a healthy lifestyle can also prevent or reduce high levels of cholesterol. Click HERE to find out the top 6 cholesterol busting foods  

It is important to recognise, that not everyone has success with lowering their cholesterol by changing their diet alone, so it is always best for the patient to seek advice from a professional who can help look at other ways to manage their cholesterol.

To learn more about statins click HERE

or if you would like to check out the patient leaflets for each medication click on the medication name below:

Atorvastatin / Simvastatin / Pravastatin

Fluvastatin / Rosuvastatin / Ezetimibe

References:

Heart UK (2020) Cholesterol. Available online: https://www.heartuk.org.uk/cholesterol/overview [Accessed 22/10/2020].

Hitchings, A., Londsdale, D., Burrage, D. & Baker, E. (2015). The Top 100 drugs. Clinical pharmacology and practical prescribing. London: Elsevier Ltd.

Medline Plus (2020) Cholesterol. Available online: https://medlineplus.gov/cholesterol.html [Accessed 22/10/2020].

NHS (2018) Does grapefruit affect my medicine? Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/medicines/does-grapefruit-affect-my-medicine/ [Accessed 22/10/2020].

NHS (2019) ezetimibe. Available online: https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/ezetimibe/  Accessed 22/10/2020].

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