If you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol, you’re not alone. In fact, you join more than 100 million adults in the U.S. who have high cholesterol. In addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise, your doctor has likely recommended that you take a statin—a common class of medications proven highly effective in treating high cholesterol.
While you can’t typically “see or feel” high cholesterol, it’s imperative to take this diagnosis seriously—the potential health consequences are too high not to. Here’s why: when cholesterol levels get too high and aren’t treated, this can cause a buildup within the walls of the arteries. This thick, hard buildup can lead to a blockage of blood flow to the heart or the brain, which may eventually result in a heart attack or stroke—two of the leading causes of death in the U.S.
Luckily, high cholesterol can be managed by taking a statin, which works by inhibiting an enzyme important in cholesterol synthesis in the liver, helping to reduce its production and ultimately remove it from the bloodstream. There are different statins available, and they’re not all processed the same way in your body; the way in which a statin is metabolized can depend on a few factors, such as your age, diet, ethnicity and other medications you may be taking. Therefore, it’s vital to make sure you’re taking the right statin for you.
Despite their proven benefits, at least 50 percent of patients prescribed a statin discontinue their medication within a year, most often due to perceived side effects1. Big mistake! If you think you might be experiencing side effects from your statin, be sure and talk to your doctor about any concerns or changes you notice in your health before stopping treatment. Statin challenges can often be resolved simply by switching from one statin to another that works better for you. Fortunately, when it comes to statins there are multiple options available, and there is likely another option that’s right for your distinct needs.
So speak up to your doctor; he or she can help you develop an individualized treatment plan that’s as unique as you are.
Finding the Right Statin for You Can Make All the Difference
Meet Joe, age 63, volunteer high school football coach
Joe is a retired teacher, avid moviegoer and volunteer football coach. He was diagnosed with high cholesterol a year ago. Joe typically makes healthy lifestyle choices—he doesn’t smoke, eats a nutritious diet and coaching ensures plenty of exercise. When Joe started to experience muscle pain, which began to interfere with his love of coaching, he assumed this was a side effect of his statin treatment. Without first speaking to his doctor, a few months ago he decided to stop taking his statin in hopes of feeling better. Unfortunately, at his next doctor’s appointment, Joe learned that his LDL-C levels had increased, putting his heart health at risk. He was embarrassed to tell his doctor that he stopped taking his prescription and wasn’t following his own game plan for better health, but he decided to put his health first and spoke up. Joe and his doctor discussed the side effects of his previous statin, and found a different statin option that worked better for him, reducing the pain he had been experiencing. Now Joe is on the offense, not the defense, and fighting back for better health.
Take It to Heart Tip: If you’re experiencing challenges with your statin, don’t keep it to yourself—tell your doctor. There are multiple statins available, so your doctor can prescribe a different statin or a different dose that may be a better fit for you.
Meet Vivian, age 57, real estate agent
Vivian is always on the go. She’s the top realtor at her firm and enjoys spending time with her new grandson whenever she can. Vivian was diagnosed with high cholesterol almost 10 years ago; it runs in her family. There have been some ups and downs with managing her high cholesterol over the years, but she has mostly stayed the course. Like many other people, though, eventually Vivian stopped taking her statin medication because she didn’t think it was working. She felt fine without it. However, the numbers don’t lie. At her next checkup, Vivian’s physician told her that her cholesterol levels were elevated once again. She quickly realized her statin had been working, and why it was so important to stay on her treatment to maintain her health. From that day on, Vivian committed to always work with her doctor to share any concerns in real time, and make adjustments to her statin treatment as needed. She continues to build her real estate business, and hopes to one day help her grandson buy his first home.
Take It to Heart Tip: You can’t “feel” your statin working, but the numbers speak for themselves. Make sure to keep your regularly scheduled medical appointments to check your cholesterol levels, and always talk to your doctor before you stop taking your medication—there may be a more appropriate statin option for you.
Meet Hector, age 71, retired auto mechanic and gardener
A retired auto mechanic and DIYer, Hector enjoys spending time with his family and tending his garden. He found out he had high cholesterol five years ago. His doctor prescribed him a statin medication and suggested adding more vegetables to his diet. Hector was feeling good on his medication and enjoying the bounty from his garden. Unfortunately, the family went through a small financial setback and, to cut costs, Hector stopped filling his prescriptions. After a recent visit to the emergency room due to chest pain, Hector realized he couldn’t “fix” his high cholesterol without taking his statin medication. Hector still enjoys all the do-it-yourself projects he has lined up, but he’s not going it alone anymore when it comes to his health.
Take It to Heart Tip: You can’t put a price tag on good health. Talk to your doctor about prescription drug programs that can help cover or lower the cost of medications.
Why Taking Your Medication Is Important
Untreated high cholesterol can lead to serious health consequences, so take your diagnosis seriously and adhere to your doctor’s treatment plan including prescribed medications, eating a nutritious diet and getting regular exercise.
Don’t be one of the more than 50 percent of patients who stop taking their statin treatment and jeopardize their health. You have options—talk to your doctor and make a plan together that works for you.