GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)– Millions of Americans have high cholesterol.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of them are not taking medication to lower it.

As part of our “Ask the Expert” series, a cardiologist gives us the scoop on statins.

Statins are a class of drugs prescribed to help lower cholesterol levels in the blood.

“The way they work is they’re active in the liver, and they prevent the liver from producing natural cholesterol, which your body will do normally.”

Dr. Daniel Green, Cardiologist, Bon Secours St. Francis

Dr. Daniel Green, a cardiologist, says it’s very important to keep high cholesterol in check because it can put you at risk for more severe health problems.

He says, “we find that cholesterol deposits in heart arteries, causing a narrowing, which can lead to chest pain and heart attacks”.

Statins are one of the most prescribed drugs globally, but some patients fear the side effects.

“Statins have often been linked, most famously to muscle aches and pains. It’s the most common complaint we get with statins,” said Green.

Dr. Green says statins are active in the liver and have been shown to raise the liver enzymes which is a marker of liver damage, but…

“There haven’t been any really great studies that have shown that statins lead to liver failure or can cause liver damage. Certainly, all pharmaceutical products that we take can have potential side effects for certain people. But in general, we don’t believe that statins lead to liver failure,” said Green.

He also says one study revealed another side effect…

“There is one study that was done recently that showed that high-dose statins in certain populations can raise blood sugar levels, which can eventually lead to lead to diabetes. This was typically found in patients who are already at risk for diabetes.”

Overall, Green says the benefit of statins, for most patients, far outweighs the risk.

Dr. Green says patients with high cholesterol, who are at high-risk for heart disease, should also make healthy diet and lifestyle changes, combined with statins. Those at intermediate or low risk for heart disease can talk to their doctor about lowering cholesterol without drugs.

To submit a health topic for our ‘Ask the Expert’ series, click here.