Controlling cholesterol with statins
The preferred first step toward achieving healthy cholesterol levels is the combination of smoking cessation, regular exercise, and a healthy diet. Some statin medications can interact with certain antiretroviral drugs.
Too much cholesterol can increase a person's chance of getting cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States.
Both HIV negative and HIV positive individuals are at risk for the development of cardiovascular disease. However, people with HIV may be at higher risk due to their use of antiretroviral drugs or perhaps due to chronic viral infection itself.
Statins (also known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) are a class drugs used to lower the level of cholesterol in the blood by reducing the production of cholesterol by the liver. Statins block the enzyme in the liver that is responsible for making cholesterol.
The following factors can affect blood cholesterol levels:• Certain foods - eating too much saturated fat, found mostly in animal products, and too much cholesterol, found only in animal products;
• Heredity - genes play a role in influencing cholesterol levels;
• Weight - excess weight tends to increase total cholesterol levels;
• Exercise - regular physical activity may not only lower LDL cholesterol, but it may increase the level of desirable HDL cholesterol;
• Smoking - cigarette smoking lowers HDL cholesterol;
• Age and gender - cholesterol levels naturally rise as men and women age. Menopause is often associated with increased LDL cholesterol in women.
State of the Statins
• Are effective in lowering bad LDL cholesterol and raising good HDL cholesterol;
• Are not recommended for pregnant women;
• Should be used cautiously by people with active or chronic liver disease, including hepatitis B or C;
• Can cause serious muscle problems (rhabdomyolysis).
Statins currently available by prescription include the following:• Lovastatin (Mevacor, Altoprev);
• Pravastatin (Pravachol);
• Simvastatin (Zocor);
• Fluvastatin (Lescol);
• Atorvastatin (Lipitor);
• Rosuvastatin (Crestor).
Tips for Consumers
• Have your blood cholesterol levels checked at least once every 5 years if you are age 20 years or older.