Believing these myths could put your heart health at risk.
High cholesterol is a common problem. It affects about 38 percent of adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means many Americans need to use medicines that lower cholesterol, such as statins. Despite how helpful these medicines can be, some common myths about cholesterol medicines have formed.
Most myths about cholesterol medicines happen when people misunderstand research or news stories. The truth is, there are different types of statins, and people react to different medicines in different ways. Your doctor will think about your risk factors and your needs when choosing the right cholesterol medicine for you.
Debunking Myths About Cholesterol Medicines
MYTH: Statins are over-prescribed and do very little to lower your cardiovascular risk.
Some people think statins are over-prescribed because they believe lifestyle changes are the only answer to lower cholesterol. They worry that without those changes, their risk of heart attack or stroke will still be high.
Treating high cholesterol often involves two big parts: lifestyle changes and medications. Many doctors will help their patients make lifestyle changes that can help lower cholesterol naturally. When this doesn’t work, statins are often the next step. Some people with high cholesterol will be able to lower their numbers with lifestyle changes alone and never need statins.
However, cholesterol treatment doesn’t have to be either/or. Statins support lifestyle changes, and lifestyle changes support the effectiveness of statins. In some cases, statins can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke when lifestyle changes aren’t lowering cholesterol enough.
MYTH: Cholesterol medicines are only used to lower cholesterol numbers.
Cholesterol medicines are very helpful at bringing down cholesterol numbers. Still, that’s not the only reason doctors prescribe them. They also lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. This may happen even if your total cholesterol is only slightly lowered.
In other words, it’s not just about the numbers. Cholesterol numbers are a helpful tool to measure your risk of heart problems, but the goal is to improve your overall heart health. If your cholesterol medicine only lowers your numbers a small amount, your risk of heart problems may still go down.
If you have worries about your cholesterol medicine, the best person to talk to is your doctor. You might find details about statins or other medicines online or in the news, but not everything will apply to you. Your doctor will know your personal risk factors the best and can help you take the most helpful steps toward good heart health.
Dr. Tolani is a cardiologist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.
- High cholesterol facts. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Accessed on December 20, 2020)
- Management of elevated low density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) in primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2020. (Accessed on December 20, 2020)
- Overview of general medical care in nonpregnant adults with diabetes mellitus. Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2020. (Accessed on December 20, 2020)
- Statins: actions, side effects, and administration. Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2020. (Accessed on December 20, 2020)