Statins: How the drug prevents heart attacks and strokes
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Apart from lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, atorvastatin is also used to prevent heart disease and strokes. One of the rare side effects of taking this type of statin is a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) that can cause your tongue to start swelling.
Call 999 or go to A&E immediately if your tongue starts swelling.
According to the NHS, other signs of an allergic reaction to atorvastatin are:
- Skin rash or skin that is itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling
- Tightness in your chest or throat
- Trouble breathing or talking
- Swelling of your mouth, face, lips, or throat.
Any of these could be a sign of a serious allergic reaction and may need immediate hospital treatment.
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Anaphylaxis is not that common when taking atorvastatin, but it is good to know the signs so you can spot it if you need to.
More typical side effects include headaches, nausea, diarrhoea and symptoms resembling a cold.
To see all other possible side effects of your statins, check the patient information leaflet that came with your pill.
The tablet is not recommended during pregnancies or for people trying to conceive or breastfeed.
When to take statins?
Your doctor might prescribe atorvastatin or any other statin medication when you have a high level of LDL cholesterol.
This can be dangerous as this type of cholesterol, also referred to as “bad” cholesterol, can harden and narrow your arteries, leading to heart and blood vessel diseases.
These types of diseases are the most common cause of death in the UK, the NHS reports.
You might also be recommended to take atorvastatin as a diabetes patient or if anyone in your family suffered from heart disease.
How to take statins?
Statins are usually taken once a day, unless you have been instructed otherwise by your doctor.
There is a type of statins that should be taken in the evening, but for some types such as atorvastatin it does not matter as long as you take them the same time every day.
Once you are prescribed statins, you usually have to keep taking them for life to keep your cholesterol levels at bay.
Always remember to follow your doctor’s guidance on dosage and the time to take your medicine.
Are there any alternatives to statins?
Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes if you are only at risk of developing heart disease in the future.
Activities and measures to lower your cholesterol levels and heart disease risk include healthy diet, exercising, reducing your alcohol intake and quitting smoking.
However, in some cases lifestyle changes are not enough and you have to take statins to help.
You do not need to worry about taking them, the NHS classes statins as “very safe, effective medicines”.
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