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A Basic Guide to Atorvastatin

Aug 13, 2021

Atorvastatin, which is the generic version of the commonly known brand name drug, Lipitor, is a prescription medication used to treat high cholesterol. It can also help decrease the chance of heart attack, stroke, as well as other other heart complications in people with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, or other risk factors.

It can also be prescribed to reduce the amount of fatty substances (i.e., low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides) in the blood and increase the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (good cholesterol) in the blood. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with high cholesterol, the prescription medication, Atorvastatin, may be able to help. Use the below information as a guide to important information about Atorvastatin, but always consult with your physician first to see if the drug could be right for you. 

What Does it Mean to Have High Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of lipid found within the cells of the body. This waxy substance is found in our blood and helps to build healthy cells, certain hormones, and vitamin D.

You're considered to have high cholesterol when your body develops fatty deposits in your blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits build up, making it challenging for enough blood to fluidly flow through your arteries. These deposits can also break up suddenly and form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.

What Causes High Cholesterol?

While high cholesterol can be caused by genetics, it’s often the result of unhealthy lifestyle factors, so fortunately it is preventable and treatable. Some causes of high cholesterol include:

  • A diet that consists of too many foods high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats

  • Smoking

  • Lack of exercise 

  • Diabetes

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Kidney disease


  • Lupus

Complications and Symptoms of High Cholesterol 

Many people don't know that they have high cholesterol until they develop a severe complication, like a stroke or heart attack. This is because it typically doesn't cause any symptoms. 

When to See your Doctor

Because high cholesterol is known as a silent problem, it's critical to be proactive. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends that you have your first cholesterol screening around 9 to 11 years old and repeated every 5 years after that.  

The NHLBI also suggests that men 45-65 and women 55-65 should be screened every 1 to 2 years. People over 65, regardless of sex, should receive cholesterol tests every year.

If your cholesterol screening results aren't within desirable ranges, or if you have a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, or other risk factors, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. your physician may require you to undergo more frequent testing.

What is Atorvastatin, and How Does it Work? 

Atorvastatin is in a class of drugs called HMG CoA reductase inhibitors, or "statins."

The buildup of cholesterol and fats along the walls of your arteries (atherosclerosis) can cause a decrease in blood flow which can contribute to a reduced oxygen supply to your heart, brain, and other parts of your body. Atorvasatin works by regulating the production of cholesterol in the body, decreasing the amount of cholesterol that may accumulate on the walls of the arteries and block blood flow to the heart, brain, and other parts of the body. Reducing a person's blood level of cholesterol and fats with Atorvastatin has been shown to prevent heart disease, chest pain, strokes, and heart attacks.

How Do You Use Atorvastatin to Treat High Cholesterol? 

It is essential that you first consult your healthcare provider before starting any new prescription medication. Also, always be sure to carefully follow the recommendations of your health care provider, use the medication as instructed and as per the directions on the prescription label

You should follow the directed dosage requirements for this medication provided by your healthcare provider. Atorvastatin comes in an oral tablet. (10 mg; 20 mg; 40 mg; 80 mg)  

What are the Possible Side Effects of Atorvastatin?

It is possible to experience side effects when using Atorvastatin. 

Common side effects may include but are not limited to:

  • joint pain

  • stuffy nose, sore throat

  • diarrhea

  • pain in your arms or legs

Get emergency medical help right away if you have hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. This could be a severe allergic reaction to the medication.

In rare cases, Atorvastatin can cause a condition that results in the breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue, potentially leading to kidney failure. Call your doctor right away if you have unexplained muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness, especially if you experience a fever, unusual tiredness, and dark-colored urine in addition.

You should call your physician if you experience the below symptoms:

  • muscle weakness in your hips, shoulders, neck, and back

  • trouble lifting your arms, trouble climbing or standing

  • Liver problems - upper stomach pain, weakness, tired feeling, loss of appetite, dark urine, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)

  • Kidney problems - little or no urine output, swelling in your feet or ankles, feeling tired or short of breath.

Drug Interactions with Atorvastatin

Other drugs may cause a negative interaction when used with Atorvastatin and may increase your risk of severe muscle problems. Therefore it's critical to discuss any medications you are currently on and have recently stopped using, especially:

  • other cholesterol-lowering medication

  • antibiotic or antifungal medicine

  • birth control pills

  • drugs to prevent organ transplant rejection

  • heart medication

  • medicine to treat hepatitis C or HIV

Combining Atorvastatin With a Healthy Lifestyle

Atorvastatin is more effective when combined with a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet and exercise. Consult with your doctor or dietitian for exercise and dietary recommendations.

The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) website is also an excellent resource for additional dietary information.  Atorvastatin may be a solution treatment for you or someone you know who struggles with high cholesterol. CareCard, a discount card for prescriptions, is passionate about helping make your prescription payments more affordable, saving members up to 85% on prescription drugs and medications. You can search for an Atorvastatin coupon here and learn how CareCard can help make your medication payments more manageable.