Medicines to Prevent Heart Attack and Stroke: Questions for the Doctor
Statins are medicines that reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by helping to lower the amount of cholesterol and other fats in the blood.
Experts recommend that if you’ve never had a heart attack or stroke, you take a statin if all 3 of these statements are true:
- You’re age 40 to 75
- You have high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, or you smoke
- Your doctor has decided that you are at higher risk for heart attack and stroke
Statins aren’t right for everyone, and all medicines have pros and cons. When you talk with your doctor about taking a statin, it’s important to discuss your personal preferences as well as your risk for heart attack and stroke.
What do I ask the doctor?
When you visit the doctor, it helps to have questions ready ahead of time. You can also ask a family member or friend to go with you to take notes.
Consider taking this list of questions to your next appointment.
- Am I at high risk for heart attack and stroke?
- What do my cholesterol numbers mean?
- What do my blood pressure numbers mean?
- Do you recommend that I take a statin to help reduce my risk for heart attack and stroke? Why or why not?
- What are the possible dangers or side effects of taking statins?
- Can you give me some information about statins to take home with me?
- What else can I do to lower my risk of heart attack and stroke?
If your doctor recommends that you take a statin, you might want to ask these questions, too.
- How often will I take the medicine?
- Will I need to take the medicine for the rest of my life?
- Could statins cause problems with any other medicines I take?
- How will I know if the medicine is working?
Content last updated May 26, 2023
This content on statins was adapted from materials from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Howard Tracer, MD
Medical Officer, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Program
Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality