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In other large trials, similarly positive results have been shown for other statins, particularly lovastatin and pravastatin; these three are the most commonly used statins.

While the various statins are prescribed more or less interchangeably, some differences among them have been noted. One recent trial found that atorvastatin did a better job of improving a person’s overall lipid profile than simvastatin. Simvastatin appears to be the most effective of the statins at raising HDL cholesterol; pravastatin is least likely to interact with other drugs; and lovastatin is the first to have been approved for a generic version, making it the most accessible.

Statins may provide heart protection beyond lowering cholesterol: They appear to reduce inflammation and clot formation in the arteries and to stimulate the release of protective nitric oxide within the blood vessels. In one recent study, people who discontinued statins were three times more likely to have a heart attack than those who continued to take their medicine, a finding that seems to confirm that the drugs provide profound protection against cardiovascular disease.

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