(NewsUSA) – There are many benefits for patients with all types of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) when they take statins. Side-effects are relatively rare, and there are many varieties of statins available that allow careful selection for the best statin for each individual patient.

Statins lower "bad" (LDL) cholesterol, which reduces the rates of stroke, heart attack, and atherosclerosis of leg arteries. Data suggest that statins beneficial effects go beyond simply lowering the level of "bad" cholesterol in the blood stream. They stabilize atherosclerotic plaques, making sudden rupture that causes stroke and heart attack less likely. They also lessen inflammation within the artery by improving the function of cells that line the inside of the artery. This likely leads to a lower chance of sudden thrombosis of any artery affected with artherosclerosis.

Even patients who have previously had a heart attack, heart surgery, angioplasty, or a stent benefit in survival and protection from other cardiac events by taking statins. And patients who take these drugs while undergoing surgery or intervention for cardiac or vascular problems have a noticeably lower rate of complications during the surgical time period.

Few adverse effects of statins have been recorded since their introduction 40 years ago. However, the effects can be severe, and it is important to know the potential down-side of these drugs. In rare circumstances, statins can cause liver damage. There are no symptoms with liver damage, so doctors do frequent laboratory tests when use of a statin is started to closely monitor liver function. Statins can also cause a wide range of muscle injury. In its worst form, myositis results from statin use. This rapid muscle destruction can lead to kidney failure. This side-effect is rare, but muscle pain and cramps are frequent and far less serious side-effects of statins.

If your doctor prescribes statins, follow their advice for laboratory tests. If your atherosclerosis leads to vascular disease, see a vascular surgeon. Today’s vascular surgeons are the only specialists who are skilled in all vascular therapies. They are comprehensively trained in medical, endovascular (minimally invasive), and surgical therapies. Vascular surgeons are the experts who provide the best diagnosis and treatment for vascular conditions.

To learn more about your vascular health and to find a vascular surgeon, visit the Society for Vascular Surgery’s website at www.VascularWeb.org.