Harvard Heart Letter

Beyond statins: Assessing the alternatives

Some people can't tolerate statins, and others need additional medications to achieve healthy cholesterol levels.

In the realm of cardiovascular medicines, statins reign supreme. These drugs lower the risk of heart attack in people who have—or may develop—heart disease.

"The benefits of statins are directly related to how much they lower LDL cholesterol," says Dr. Christopher Cannon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital. For every 40-point reduction in LDL, the risk of a heart attack drops by about 20%. Statins also help fight inflammation, stabilize plaque inside the arteries, and prevent blood clots, all of which likely contribute to their heart-protecting effects.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »