On call: Tests for statin users

On call

Tests for statin users

Published: December, 2008

Q. I am pretty healthy for a 73-year-old, but my cholesterol is 280, and my doctor wants me to take Lipitor. I'm willing to do so, but I need to know what tests I should have to be sure I'm not getting side effects. What do you suggest?

A. Like the five other statin drugs, atorvastatin (Lipitor) is a remarkably effective drug. On average, it will lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol by up to 60%, lower triglycerides by up to 40%, and raise HDL ("good") cholesterol by about 5% to 10%. Higher doses (up to 80 mg a day) will produce better results than lower doses (which start at 10 mg a day). Most importantly, statin drugs can substantially reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, with the greatest benefits going to men at the highest risk.

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