John McMillin: Statins, ACE inhibitors explained for home medical library

John McMillin • Updated Sep 17, 2018 at 9:00 AM

United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland’s partner, Familywize, offers a lot more than prescription discounts for our local communities. This week, we want to pass along some of their information about statins and ACE inhibitors. We think this is a great clip-and-save column for your household.

If your doctor has brought up using medication to address your heart health, you may be confused by all of the different options available. Statins and ACE inhibitors are two of the most commonly prescribed, and most heavily advertised, drug classes.

What are statins?

Statins are drugs often prescribed to help lower cholesterol levels in the blood, helping to prevent heart attacks and stroke. According to the American Heart Association, statins are the only cholesterol-lowering drug class that has been directly associated with a reduction in the risk of heart attack or stroke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate about 28 percent of American men and women older than age 40 take a statin.

Common examples of statins include Atorvastatin (Lipitor), Fluvastatin (Lescol), Lovastatin (Altoprev), Pitavastatin (Livalo), Pravastatin (Pravachol), Rosuvastatin (Crestor) and Simvastatin (Zocor).

Side effects of statins

If you do any online research, you’ll find that statins can be very polarizing. This is mostly due to their side effects. There are convincing arguments that too many people stop taking their prescribed statins because of the side effects they are experiencing, with experts arguing that those people should first discuss their options with their doctor, etc. There are equally convincing arguments that statins should be prescribed less frequently, due to their high rate of side effects.

Common side effects from statins include headache, difficulty sleeping, flushing of the skin, muscle aches, tenderness, or weakness (myalgia), drowsiness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramping or pain, bloating or gas, diarrhea, constipation and rash.

Statins also carry warnings that memory loss, mental confusion, neuropathy, high blood sugar and type 2 diabetes are possible side effects. Always discuss any side effects with your physician, as well as any other medications you are taking.

What are ACE inhibitors?

ACE inhibitors, or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, are drugs used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease. ACE inhibitors alter the body’s ability to produce angiotensin II, a hormone that causes the arteries to narrow, increasing the chance of a dangerous blockage. By stopping the body from producing angiotensin, these drugs help the blood vessels to relax and widen, which lowers blood pressure, increases blood flow to the heart and reduces the heart’s workload.

Common examples of ACE inhibitors include Benazepril (Lotensin), Captopril, Enalapril (Vasotec), Fosinopril, Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), Moexipril, Perindopril (Aceon), Quinapril (Accupril), Ramipril (Altace) and Trandolapril (Mavik).

Side effects of ACE inhibitors

One of the reasons ACE inhibitors are prescribed so frequently is that they have a relatively low risk of side effects. Possible ACE inhibitor side effects include dry cough, increased blood-potassium level or hyperkalemia, fatigue, dizziness, headaches and loss of taste.

Affording statins and ACE inhibitors

Statins and ACE inhibitors are considered to be maintenance medications or treatments that patients continue over a long period of time to manage or treat a condition. As such, they play a major role in your family’s budget. Regardless of whether you have health insurance, there are many resources available to help you and your family afford critical medications.

One of the easiest ways to save money on your heart medication is to use a prescription discount card when you visit the pharmacy. Download a free prescription card from UWWUC partner FamilyWize or get the free mobile app to start saving an average of 45 percent on all your prescriptions.

John McMillin is president of United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland. Email him at [email protected]

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