What is Cardiovascular Disease?

Approximately 81 million American adults are living with cardiovascular disease (CVD). Cardiovascular disease includes hypertension, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and/or congenital cardiovascular heart defects. More than 17 million people with CVD have coronary heart disease (also called coronary artery disease), which is a build-up of fat (atherosclerotic plaque) in the walls of the arteries around the heart. Coronary heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States.

What are Statins?

Statin medications (statins) are drugs that help lower cholesterol levels in the blood. Statins help prevent coronary heart disease in patients without a history of CVD (primary prevention) and those who are at very high risk of developing CVD (such as patients with diabetes, genetic familial hyperlipidemias) or have had some form of CVD, including heart attack, stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), angioplasty, coronary artery stent placement or peripheral vascular disease (secondary prevention).

Statins are the first-line treatment of choice for patients with high cholesterol and those diagnosed with coronary heart disease. Statins have additional benefits beyond lowering cholesterol levels (pleiotropic effects); they also help the lining of the blood vessels work better (improved endothelial function), enhance the stability of atherosclerotic plaques, reduce the amount of inflammation and damage done to cells through oxidation (oxidative stress), and keep blood platelets from clumping together (platelet aggregation), thereby reducing the risk of a blood clot (thrombus).

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Reviewed: 07/15