Statins are medications that reduce your risk of a heart attack and stroke by lowering your cholesterol. Dr. Stephen Kopecky, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, says people should combine statins with a heart-healthy lifestyle to get the most benefit.
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"If you take a statin and lower your numbers, but you don't have a healthy lifestyle, a healthy diet and food pattern, then you don't get the benefit of the statin," says Dr. Kopecky.
How can that be? Dr. Kopecky explains that some people ask to be put on a statin so they can eat what they want.
"It doesn't work that way," says Dr. Kopecky. "When you take a statin, your numbers look better, your LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or "bad" cholesterol) looks better, but your cardiac events don't reduce."
That's because statins, while important and effective, are just one part of the whole heart-healthy picture. When you combine a statin with regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, controlling stress, not smoking and eating foods based on the Mediterranean diet, you can improve your heart health.
"A pill doesn't take the place of a healthy lifestyle. It has to be in addition to it," says Dr. Kopecky.
Dr. Kopecky says that if you work in lifestyle changes slowly over time, you'll be on your way to better heart health.