The Importance of Statins: What You Need to Know

Statins Film Coated Tablets

Statins are a class of drugs commonly prescribed to lower cholesterol levels in the blood. They play a critical role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, which are among the leading causes of death worldwide. Understanding why we take statins, what our goals are, and the benefits of tracking certain cholesterol metrics can help demystify these medications and highlight their importance.

Why We Take Statins

Statins are primarily prescribed to lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), often referred to as “bad cholesterol.” Elevated levels of LDL-C can lead to the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries, known as plaque. Over time, this plaque can harden and narrow the arteries, a condition called atherosclerosis, which increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

By lowering LDL-C levels, statins help reduce the formation of plaque, thus preventing the progression of atherosclerosis and lowering the likelihood of cardiovascular events. This makes statins particularly beneficial for individuals with a history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or other risk factors such as high blood pressure and smoking.

Goals of Statin Therapy

The primary goal of statin therapy is to reduce LDL-C levels to a target range based on an individual’s risk profile. For those with a high risk of cardiovascular events, the goal may be an LDL-C level of less than 70 mg/dL. For others with moderate risk, the target might be below 100 mg/dL. These targets are based on extensive research demonstrating that lower LDL-C levels are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.

However, the benefits of statins extend beyond simply lowering LDL-C. Statins also have anti-inflammatory properties and improve the function of the endothelial cells lining the arteries. These additional effects contribute to the overall cardiovascular benefits of the medication.

LDL vs. APOB: A Crucial Distinction

While LDL-C has been the traditional marker for assessing cardiovascular risk, recent discussions in the medical community, led by experts like Dr. Peter Attia, suggest that apolipoprotein B (ApoB) might be a more accurate indicator. ApoB is a protein found in all atherogenic lipoprotein particles, including LDL, very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), and intermediate-density lipoproteins (IDL).

Each of these particles can contribute to plaque formation, but since each particle contains one molecule of ApoB, measuring ApoB levels provides a direct count of these potentially harmful particles. This makes ApoB a more precise marker for assessing the number of atherogenic particles in the blood, which could be a better predictor of cardiovascular risk than LDL-C alone.

The Advantage of Tracking ApoB

Tracking ApoB levels offers several advantages over LDL-C:

  1. Precision: Since ApoB measures the actual number of atherogenic particles, it provides a more accurate assessment of cardiovascular risk. This is especially important for individuals with normal or borderline LDL-C levels but high ApoB levels, who might otherwise be overlooked.
  2. Risk Stratification: ApoB can help identify individuals at high risk who might benefit from more aggressive treatment. For instance, someone with low LDL-C but high ApoB might need a different therapeutic approach than someone with low levels of both markers.
  3. Therapeutic Decisions: ApoB can guide the intensity of statin therapy and other lipid-lowering treatments. By aiming to lower ApoB levels, clinicians can tailor therapy more effectively to reduce cardiovascular risk.


Statins are a cornerstone of cardiovascular disease prevention, significantly reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes by lowering LDL-C levels and offering additional cardiovascular benefits. However, the evolving understanding of cholesterol metrics highlights the potential advantages of tracking ApoB levels as a more precise indicator of cardiovascular risk.

For patients and healthcare providers alike, embracing a more comprehensive approach to lipid management can lead to better outcomes. By considering both LDL-C and ApoB, we can more accurately identify at-risk individuals and tailor treatments to optimize cardiovascular health.

Incorporating these insights into clinical practice can ensure that the benefits of statins and other lipid-lowering therapies are fully realized, ultimately leading to improved longevity and quality of life for patients at risk of cardiovascular disease.

Read Also: Longevity Unveiled: Exploring Peter Attia’s Guide to Healthy Aging

Milt McColl, MD, July, 2024

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