In Singapore, nearly two out of 10 adults aged 18 to 69 have high cholesterol. A study by SingHealth polyclinics, sponsored by the Singapore Heart Foundation, showed that patients who took their medicines diligently as prescribed achieved their treatment goals. 

“Regardless of ethnicity, high cholesterol can be addressed with the use of medication,” said Dr Tan Ngiap Chuan, Senior Consultant and Director, Department of Research from SingHealth Polyclinics, who was the lead author of the study’s report.

Patients who diligently take their cholesterol medicines – mostly statins – manage to lower their cholesterol levels.

How statins work

High cholesterol can be reduced with medication such as statins – the most commonly used drugs to control low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Statins work by blocking an enzyme that produces this “bad” cholesterol in the liver.

High levels of cholesterol – a waxy, fat-like substance that contributes to artery-clogging plaque – raise the risk of vascular diseases such as stroke and diabetes. A low-fat diet and increased exercise can reduce cholesterol levels. Smoking and a sedentary lifestyle raise one’s risks.

Statins are safe to take long term

Dr Tan acknowledged some patients fear taking statins; estimating that up to 54 per cent of patients believe using statins long-term can damage the kidneys or liver. Squashing fears about statins’ potential negative side effects, Dr Tan said that some, such as muscle aches and pains or raised liver enzymes, come few and far between. 

Suggestions that statins should be avoided because they are harmful in the long run are exaggerations. Also, doctors regularly monitor patients who are on medication. 

“Data shows that most of the millions of patients on the drugs do not have negative side effects. Instead, the majority who take them actually live longer, useful lives. It is not the evil it is made out to be by some quarters. I tell my patients it’s their elixir for a long life; a long, good life.”

There are different brands and potencies of statins. The cheapest costs over a dollar a week for adults below 65, with a government subsidy; less, for older folk who qualify for higher subsidies. The most expensive costs between $2 and $4 per tablet, without a subsidy. 

Noting that Singapore ranks high globally for longevity, Dr Tan said, “Many of our patients are already on statins. This is probably one of the contributing factors for our longer lifespan.”

Read the next page for effective ways to lower cholesterol and desirable cholesterol levels to aim for.

Ref: N18

Check out other articles on cholesterol:

Cholesterol Tips: Foods to Eat and What to Avoid

Truth About 'Good' (HDL) and 'Bad' (LDL) Cholesterol

Slim But with High Cholesterol, Is It Possible?

Exercises to Lower Bad Cholesterol (and Increase the Good)

Can Plant Sterols Lower Bad Cholesterol?

Cholesterol Meds: Alternatives to Statins