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Cholesterol-lowering medicines, statins

Statins may be recommended if you have cardiovascular disease (CVD) or have a high risk of developing it in the next 10 years.

Statins may be recommended if you have cardiovascular disease (CVD) or have a high risk of developing it in the next 10 years.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD)

(CVD) is a general term that describes a disease of the heart or blood vessels, often caused by high cholesterol. It's the most common cause of death in the UK.

The main types of CVD are:

Statins can't cure these conditions, but they can help prevent them from getting worse or recurring in people who have been diagnosed with them.

They can also reduce the chance of these conditions developing in the first place in people at risk (see below). 

Statins are usually used in combination with lifestyle measures such as: 

People at risk of CVD 

If you don't have any form of CVD, statins may still be recommended if you're thought to be at a high risk of developing the condition in the future.

The current recommendation is that you should be offered statins if:

  • there's at least a 1 in 10 chance of you developing CVD at some point in the next 10 years
  • lifestyle measures, such as exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet, haven't reduced this risk

Your GP may recommend carrying out a formal assessment of your CVD risk if they think you may be at an increased risk of CVD, based on your personal and family medical history.

For this formal assessment, your GP or practice nurse will use special CVD risk assessment computer software that takes into account factors such as:

  • your age
  • your gender
  • your ethnic group, as some have an increased risk of CVD
  • your weight and height
  • if you smoke or have previously smoked
  • if you have a family history of CVD
  • your blood pressure
  • your blood cholesterol levels
  • if you have certain long-term conditions  such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis and atrial fibrillation (a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate)

Read more about NHS screening.  

Other uses

Statins can also be used to treat people with a condition called familial hypercholesterolaemia.

This is an inherited condition caused by a genetic fault that leads to high cholesterol levels, even in people who have a generally healthy lifestyle.

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