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Cholesterol-lowering medications (statins)


What is this medication?

Statins help prevent the build-up of plaque in your arteries. This can lower the long-term risk of having a heart attack.

Statins include:

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor®)
  • Fluvastatin (Lescol®)
  • Lovastatin (Mevacor®)
  • Pravastatin (Pravachol®)
  • Rosuvastatin (Crestor®)
  • Simvastatin (Zocor®)

Be aware:

  • Generic names are listed first.
  • Canadian brand names are in brackets.
  • This list doesn’t include every brand name.
  • If your prescription isn’t listed, your pharmacist is the best source for more information.
What does it do?

Statins help stop plaque from forming in your blood vessels. They can also prevent existing plaque from getting worse. Their effect on plaque is powerful but slow.

Your healthcare provider may check your cholesterol levels regularly.

  • Changes in your cholesterol levels can show how much your statin is helping you.
  • High cholesterol is not the only factor in plaque formation.
    • Plaque can still form with lower cholesterol levels.
  • If your arteries are clogged with plaque, you will probably take a statin even if your cholesterol is low-to-normal.

Be Aware: The anti-plaque effect goes away if you stop taking your statin. So statins are usually taken for life, even if your cholesterol levels return to normal limits.

How do I take it?

Statins are taken once a day, usually at night.

  • You can take Atorvastatin (Lipitor®) and Rosuvastatin (Crestor®) in the morning if it is easier.
Are there any interactions?

Avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice if you are taking:

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor®)
  • Simvastatin (Zocor®)
  • Lovastatin (Mevacor®)

Visit Health Canada to learn more about The Effects of Grapefruit and its Juice on Certain Drugs.

Some non-prescription and herbal medications can also affect statin medications. They may even cause other health problems.

Tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all the medications you are taking. These include:

  • Prescriptions
  • Non-prescription drugs
  • Inhalers
  • Creams or ointments
  • Over-the-counter or natural health products
  • Alternative therapies
  • Vitamins, minerals or supplements
  • Herbal remedies
  • Homeopathic medicines
  • Traditional remedies, such as Chinese medicines
Are there any side effects?

Most people who take statins will not have any side effects.

Some people may experience:

  • Upset stomach
  • Constipation
  • Gas
  • Sore muscles, cramping,  or weakness that doesn’t go away.
    • Lowering the dose or switching to a different statin may help.

Tell your healthcare provider if you are having problems.

Lifestyle changes that can also help

There are two ways to control and manage your heart health: medication and lifestyle.

Medication can help you control heart disease and high blood pressure, but it cannot cure it.

A healthy lifestyle can help you keep medication to a minimum.

Visit heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy. Learn how to keep your heart healthy with current information and advice from Heart and Stroke Foundation experts.

Talk to your healthcare provider about the most beneficial lifestyle goals for you.

Related information

Your healthcare provider or pharmacist are your best sources of information. You can also learn more about medications at any of these trusted sites.

Health Canada - Drugs and Health Products
Provides health and medical information for Canadians to maintain and improve their health.

Learn more about:

Your ministry of health also offers health resources in your province or territory. For example, Ontario’s MedsCheck program provides free pharmacist consultations. And British Columbia’s Senior Healthcare web page provides information about important health programs.

Drug coverage