Atorvastatin belongs to the group of medications known as HMG CoA reductase inhibitors (“statins”) or lipid metabolism regulators. It is used to treat people who have high cholesterol levels, including those people who have certain inherited cholesterol disorders. When you use this medication, you also need to make lifestyle changes, including switching to a diet low in fat and cholesterol, quitting smoking, and increasing the amount of exercise you do.
Atorvastatin works by blocking an enzyme that is used to make cholesterol in the liver. When that enzyme is blocked, less cholesterol is produced and the amount of cholesterol in the blood decreases. Atorvastatin lowers the level of total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol), and raises high density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol) levels. Reduction of cholesterol levels in the blood has been shown to reduce the risks associated with heart disease, such as heart attack.
Atorvastatin is used to reduce the risk of heart attack in people experiencing symptoms associated with heart disease.
Atorvastatin is also used to reduce the risk of heart attack in people with high blood pressure who have at least 3 additional risk factors for heart disease but are not experiencing symptoms associated with heart disease. The risk factors of heart disease for these individuals include:
- being male
- being 55 years old or older
- enlarged heart ventricles
- family history of heart disease
- specific abnormalities on an ECG
- the total cholesterol to HDL-cholesterol ratio that is greater than or equal to 6
- type 2 diabetes
- specific types of protein in the urine
Atorvastatin is also used to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people with high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes who have other risk factors for heart disease but are not experiencing symptoms associated with heart disease. The risk factors of heart disease for these individuals include:
- a specific type of protein in the urine
- being 55 years old or older
- disease of the retina
How should I use this medication?
When you start taking atorvastatin, you should be on a cholesterol-lowering diet. If appropriate, a health care professional will discuss an individualized program of weight control and physical exercise with you.
The recommended starting dose of atorvastatin for adults is 10 mg or 20 mg daily, preferably in the evening, with or without food. Your doctor will do blood tests to tell how well this dose is working for you and may gradually increase the dose to get the desired response. The maximum recommended dose for adults is 80 mg taken once daily.
For children 10 to 17 years of age who are taking this medication to treat inherited cholesterol disorders, the recommended dose ranges from 10 mg to 20 mg daily. Doses greater than 20 mg have not been studied.
Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here,do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.
For best results in lowering cholesterol, it is very important to closely follow the diet suggested by your doctor. It is also very important that atorvastatin be taken regularly and exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
If you miss a dose of this medication, take it as soon as possible and continue with your regular schedule. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are not sure what to do after missing a dose, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
Store this medication at room temperature and keep it out of the reach of children.
Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.
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