Why You Should Think Twice Before Taking This Popular Medication In The Morning

Every time a new medication makes its way into your medicine cabinet, you skim through the leaflet by your pharmacist and add it to your medication rotation. However, taking it daily isn't enough to get the full benefit of some medications. Timing can be everything when it comes to popular cholesterol medications like statins. Taking this medication in the morning can make it less effective than at night due to how your body produces cholesterol.

According to Mayo Clinic, cholesterol is a waxy substance the body uses to build healthy cells. However, too much cholesterol due to genetics or poor health choices can lead to a build-up on the walls of arteries. Therefore, it's essential to keep your cholesterol numbers in the heart-healthy range, which is under 200 for total cholesterol, under 100 for low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and over 60 for high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (per Cleveland Clinic). Statins work with a low-salt, heart-healthy diet; exercise; and stress management to keep these numbers in check.

We'll explain why the research shows that taking statins at night is the way to go. We'll also discuss how statins work and how their purpose has changed over the years.

Why it's better to take statins at night

Your biological clock has a lot to say regarding taking your medications. Micheal Smolensky, professor at the University of Austin, told AARP, "Some drugs are not as effective or as well tolerated if they're taken at the wrong biological time. It's not that they're not effective at all, but they're certainly much less effective." Statins are one such drug. 

According to Clinical Correlations, the mechanisms that create cholesterol in the liver have the most significant activity at night. Additionally, a 2003 study in the British Medical Journal tested the effectiveness of taking simvastatin (a popularly prescribed statin) in the morning and at night. The research showed that "change in blood lipids was normally distributed and switching taking simvastatin from in the evening to in the morning resulted in statistically significant increases in total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol." Therefore, it was concluded that taking this statin in the evening provided the best effect.

In addition to the body mechanisms, the medication's half-life also comes into play. According to Healthline, statins can have a half-life of only six hours or less, so taking them before bed allows them to be the most effective in reducing cholesterol. Medications with extended release might be taken at dinner, but taking them sometime in the evening ensures they have the most effect on cholesterol numbers.

How statins work and uses

Statin medications have been around for a long time and provide benefits for those with high cholesterol. They come by different brand names, such as Lipitor, Crestor, and Zocor, to name a few. These mediations bring the level of your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol down to within heart-healthy ranges by inhibiting the enzyme that your body needs to make cholesterol, so you have less in your body, according to Cleveland Clinic. These types of medications are typically prescribed to those considered to have high cholesterol or diabetes.

While statins have been historically known as medications for high cholesterol, they are gaining traction as a risk-reducing medication for heart disease and stroke. Michael Blaha, M.D. told Johns Hopkins Medicine, "Traditionally, statins were viewed as purely cholesterol-lowering drugs. So it made sense just to use them for people with high cholesterol. But we've learned that they also benefit people with lower levels of cholesterol who are at a high risk of heart disease. So we now think of statins as risk-reducing drugs." The change in the way statins are used has opened the medication to those who might not have been candidates for them before. For example, those with signs of calcium deposits on coronary calcium scans or those who have risk factors like high blood pressure or high body mass index might be prescribed statins to help reduce their future risk of heart attack.