There is always a lot of talk about cholesterol and most of it tends to be bad. The truth about cholesterol is that cholesterol itself is not a “bad” thing. Your body needs cholesterol to function properly. Cholesterol helps your body make hormones and helps with digestion. Your body makes cholesterol in the liver, and it also comes from the foods you eat.
However, cholesterol can cause problems if it builds up in the arteries, which makes the arteries more narrow and less flexible (also known as atherosclerosis). If a blood clot formed in one of the narrow, hardened arteries, it could block off the blood supply to the heart or brain and lead to a heart attack or stroke.
The medical term for “bad” cholesterol is low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and “good” cholesterol is called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. High levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol has been linked to heart attacks and strokes, thus medications are used to lower LDL levels and reduce the likelihood one of these events may occur. In addition, if someone taking a cholesterol-lowering medication does have a heart attack or stroke, some of these medications also can help decrease the severity of the event. In addition, cholesterol medications are used after a heart attack or stroke to prevent a recurrence.
What is a statin medication?
A “statin” medication is a cholesterol lowering medication. It is the preferred, and most common, medication class for lowering bad cholesterol in the body. They’re also called HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. Examples of “statin” medications are atorvastatin (Lipitor®), rosuvastatin (Crestor®), simvastatin (Zocor®), and pravastatin (Pravachol®). These medicines are considered the go-to (or first-line) for lowering bad cholesterol. They are not only used to lower cholesterol, but to help prevent heart attacks and/or strokes.
Should you take your statin medication at night?
Your doctor or pharmacist might tell you to take your statin medication at night, and you may find yourself wondering why. The reason behind taking your statin medication at night is because your body produces most of its cholesterol at night. Some statin medications have a shorter half-life (how long they stay active in the body) and should be taken at night to maximize their effect. However, some specific statin medications last long enough in your body that they will still be effective if taken in the morning. I’ve listed the most common statins and what time of day they should be taken here:
• Atorvastatin – Anytime of the day
• Rosuvastatin – Anytime of the day
• Pravastatin – Anytime of the day
• Pitavastatin – Anytime of the day
• Simvastatin – Take in the evening
• Lovastatin – Take in the evening
• Fluvastatin – Take in the evening
While the time of day you take your specific statin medication is important to increase the effectiveness of the medicine, taking the medication consistently is more important. If you’re someone who is taking simvastatin, lovastatin, or fluvastatin and just cannot remember to take the medication at night, take the medicine at any point in the day that you can remember to take it. It’s more important to actually take the medicine than it is to nail the timing.
So, if taking it at night causes you to forget to take it at all, you’re better off taking it at the time of day when you can remember. You could also consider talking to your healthcare provider to switch to atorvastatin, rosuvastatin, pravastatin, or pitavastatin, so the time of day you take it does not matter.
1) Pharmacist’s Letter
2) Guthrie EW. Do all statins need to be taken in the evening? Prescriber’s Letter 2003;10: Detail Document #191206.