Do I need a statin?

All the talk about statins may have you wondering if you should be taking one. It all depends on your level of risk.

In recent years, health experts have been calling for increasingly aggressive cholesterol-lowering strategies, especially for people with cardiovascular disease or at high risk for it. The emphasis is on reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol, the kind that invades artery walls, causes inflammation, and helps set the stage for a heart attack or stroke. In summer 2004, revised cholesterol guidelines urged people at very high risk for a heart attack to get their LDL levels below 70 mg/dL, down from a previous target of 100 mg/dL. That feat is nearly impossible unless you add a cholesterol-lowering medication to dietary and lifestyle changes.

Enter statins

These days, "cholesterol-lowering medication" usually means a statin, a type of drug that works by blocking the manufacture of cholesterol in the liver. Statins are the first choice for reducing cholesterol and the top-selling prescription drugs in the United States.

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