October 01, 2019

Sticking with your statin to lower cholesterol

For people at moderate to high risk of a heart attack or stroke, cholesterol lowering statin drugs can substantially reduce that risk — and also the risk of dying of a heart attack and stroke — compared with those at similar risk who don't take a statin. That's a major benefit, but a statin won't make you feel any better in the short term, and side effects can sometimes be an issue.

Perhaps for these reasons, sticking to a statin prescription is a challenge for many older adults. A recent study looked at about 22,000 older adults who had been prescribed a statin drug. At one year after being prescribed a statin, nearly 45% of participants had stopped taking the drug — and 55% were taking it less frequently than prescribed. In a Mayo Clinic study of medication use after a heart attack, only 44% of patients were taking statins three years after a heart attack. In the same study, only 48% of people were still taking their prescribed, heart-protective beta blockers. And only 43% were still taking their prescribed medication for high blood pressure.

If you have been prescribed a statin and are thinking about stopping — or are already not taking it as prescribed or have stopped taking it — have a discussion with your doctor. Here are key things to understand:

  • How much are you lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke when you take a statin? — Benefit and risk calculators are one...