Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Do statins affect blood pressure?

Ask the doctor

Do statins affect blood pressure?

Q. I have been arguing with a friend about whether the statin drugs lower blood pressure. Do they, or don't they?

A. Statins may lower blood pressure — the evidence is still thin — but if they do, the effect is small. Few of the multitude of trials testing these cholesterol-lowering medicines checked blood pressure before and after and kept the use of blood pressure medicines constant. An analysis of the results of the few small trials that took these steps showed a reduction of almost 2 points in systolic blood pressure (the upper number of a blood pressure reading) and a reduction of under 1 point for the diastolic pressure (the bottom number). Note that these are average changes, and the effect in individuals can be bigger or smaller.

What does this mean for people who take one of the six statins currently on the market — atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor), or simvastatin (Zocor)? Not much. For those with high blood pressure, these medications certainly can't take the place of blood pressure medicine. For those with a healthy blood pressure, taking a statin to keep cholesterol in check may help a bit to keep blood pressure in the safety zone.

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