Dear Dr. Roach: I am 68 years old and in good shape. I work out at the gym or do other activities every day. I use the elliptical and/or treadmill an hour each day. Besides the gym workout, I take 8,000 to 10,000 daily steps. I am 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weigh 125 pounds. I eat vegetables and fruit every day. My protein is from either chicken breasts or salmon. My blood pressure was 99/54 at my last checkup.
My total cholesterol is 277, and my HDL is 90. Due to my cholesterol counts, my doctor called in a prescription for 10 mg of atorvastatin (Lipitor). I’ve spoken to several friends who have much higher counts, and all of them were prescribed 5 mg. Before I agree to take this drug at this strength, I wanted to get your expert opinion. I am leery of the side effects, and my doctor is always prescribing a drug for whatever issue I have. — J.B.
Answer: Statin drugs like atorvastatin reduce risk of heart attack, stroke and death. They have a small risk of side effects such as muscle aches, and a very small risk of serious muscle or liver damage. In order to estimate how much benefit an individual might get from taking medication, it’s important to know what your risk is.
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