High cholesterol service
Too much of certain types of cholesterol can cause narrowing of your arteries, which can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Cholesterol treatments work to lower your cholesterol levels by slowing down the liver’s production of cholesterol.
- Complete a short medical questionnaire
- Highlight a preferred treatment
- Doctor reviews your answers and notes your preferred treatment
Important: If your preferred treatment is not clinically suitable, your doctor may offer an alternative or advise you on what to do next.
High cholesterol treatments available
What are Statins?
Statins are a type of medication that can be used to lower your cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a fatty material that is mainly made in the liver. The body uses it for essential cell functions. There are two types of cholesterol known as good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL). If you get too much bad cholesterol, it can build up on the walls of your arteries, like a type of hard plaque. For this reason, cholesterol is a primary cause of heart disease and stroke.
Statins come in different types. For example, atorvastatin and simvastatin are popular types. Rosuvastatin is another type that is used for people who have a history of high cholesterol in their family.
How to test cholesterol levels at home
If you want to check whether you might need cholesterol treatment, or if your cholesterol levels are where they should be, you can order a home cholesterol test kit online.
Anyone over the age of 18 can order one. They involve take a small pin-prick blood sample and then sending that sample to our lab by post. Your results will then be sent to you in 2-3 days through your patient account and a Superdrug online doctor will provide advice on the next steps.
You will normally take one tablet per day when taking statins to treat high cholesterol. Your GP will advise you on how and how often to take your medication when you are first prescribed your treatment. It is usually recommended to take the daily tablet in the evening before going to bed.
In addition to taking a statin, you need to follow a balanced and healthy diet. Your GP will advise you on how to reduce your intake of saturated fats and increase your intake of omega 3 fatty acids, which have been found to have a positive effect on your blood fat levels. Many patients who are treated for high cholesterol levels need to take statins permanently to prevent cardiovascular problems.
Statin Side Effects
Statins can cause side effects. If you suffer any side effects while taking statins, consult your GP. Your doctor will be able to advise you on whether it is possible to reduce the side effects by adjusting your dosage or switching to a different type of statin or high cholesterol medication.
Common Statin Side Effects
- muscle pain, weakness or tiredness
- sore throat
- nasal congestion or runny nose
- digestive problems such as diarrhoea, wind, constipation or indigestion
- increased level of sugar in your blood
- increased risk of diabetes
Always read to patient leaflet supplied with your statin to ensure you are aware of all possible side effects and risks associated with your medication.
Muscle pain is a common side effect caused by statins. It is important that you contact your doctor immediately if you experience unusual muscle pain, as it can sometimes indicate a very serious condition called rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis is dangerous when left untreated. If you suffer from muscle pain caused by a statin, your GP can give you advice on how to minimise the discomfort.
Statins are known to interact with certain types of medication. Your prescribing GP will take this into account when prescribing your medication. Make sure you mention all medicines you are taking to your GP when discussing taking a statin.
Statins interact with the following medications:
- certain antibiotics and antifungal medicines
- certain HIV medications
- the blood thinning drug Warfarin
- certain immunosuppressant drugs such as ciclosporin
- the endometriosis medicine danazol
- certain calcium channel blockers (used to treat cardiovascular problems)
- amiodarone, a medication prescribed to patients with an irregular heartbeat
- fibrates (which are also used to reduce your blood levels of cholesterol
There is no known interaction between statins and alcohol but statins are not suitable for patients who regularly consume a large amount of alcohol as this increases the risk of rhabdomyolysis (a condition which leads to the destruction of muscle cells).
Statins can interact with grapefruit juice, which can lead to higher levels of the medication in your blood. You need to avoid consuming large amounts of grapefruit juice or you might need to avoid it entirely. Consult the patient leaflet of the specific statin you are taking for further advice or ask your doctor.
Lipitor versus Generic Atorvastatin
Atorvastatin is a type of statin. It reduces the liver’s production of cholesterol. It is produced without a brand name as a generic medicine. The patent (a type of intellectual property) for atorvastatin ran out in 2012, which means it is now very cheap to buy. Because atorvastatin is now so cheap, the NHS recommended that their GPs should switch their patients from other types of statin, such as simvastatin, to atorvastatin.
Lipitor is a branded version of the atorvastatin. In Lipitor and generic atorvastatin, the active ingredient is the same. Lipitor is just more expensive.