Your doctor can assess your risk for a heart attack or stroke based on your cholesterol levels and other risk factors. From there, you can work with your doctor to develop a treatment and prevention plan that's right for you.
If you have to take medication, you may feel disappointed. That’s OK – it’s normal. But don’t let your feelings stop you from taking your meds. Set up a routine, and stick to it. The minor inconvenience of medication vastly outweighs the devastation of a cardiovascular event.
Various medications are used to lower blood cholesterol levels. Statins are recommended for most patients because they’re the only cholesterol-lowering drug class that’s been directly associated with reducing the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Your doctor may consider other medications too, especially if statins cause serious side effects or they don’t help you enough.
Guidelines recommend that people in any of these four groups talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of statin therapy:
- Adults 40-75 years of age with LDL (bad) cholesterol of 70-189 mg/dL and a 7.5 percent or higher risk for having a heart attack or stroke within 10 years.
- People with a history of a cardiovascular event (heart attack, stroke, stable or unstable angina, peripheral artery disease, transient ischemic attack, or coronary or other arterial revascularization).
- People 21 and older who have a very high level of LDL (bad) cholesterol (190 mg/dL or higher).
- People with diabetes and a LDL (bad) cholesterol level of 70-189 mg/dL who are 40 to 75 years old.
Some patients who do not fall into these categories may also benefit from statin therapy.
View an animation to see how cholesterol drugs work.
*Some of the major types of commonly prescribed cardiovascular medications are summarized in this section. We’ve included generic names as well as major trade names to help you identify what you may be taking. Please understand that the American Heart Association is not recommending or endorsing any specific products. If your prescription medication isn't on this list, your healthcare provider and pharmacist are your best sources of information. It's important to discuss all the drugs you take with your doctor and understand their desired effects and possible side effects. Never stop taking a medication or change your dose or frequency without first consulting your doctor.
*Some cholesterol-lowering medications may interact with grapefruit, grapefruit juice, pomegranate and pomegranate juice. Please talk to your health care provider about any potential risks.
Clinical trials are scientific studies that determine if a possible new medical advance can help people and whether it has harmful side effects. Find answers to common questions about clinical trials in our Guide to Understanding Clinical Trials.
This content was last reviewed April 2017.