High cholesterol is no laughing matter. Especially when you need to take statins to lower your LDL cholesterol.
While generally considered a safe drug, during the initial six-month treatment with statins, many people experience some mild to intense side effects. This has given rise to a negative discourse over the ultimate risk-benefit of statins.
What Are Statins
Statins are various types of medicine that lower your bad cholesterol. The most known statins are atorvastatin, mevastatin, pitavastatin and pravastatin.
When dieting and exercising alone cannot bring down your bad cholesterol, your doctor will advise you to take statins, especially if you’re classified as having a high risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Statins inhibit an enzyme’s action (HMG-CoA reductase) responsible for creating cholesterol in your body. Recent studies show that apart from lowering your cholesterol by up to 60%, statins can reduce high blood pressure, preliminary findings suggest.
Why statins have gotten a bad reputation
For the medical community statins are considered a major achievement; they are an effective, affordable drug that helps prevent or lower your risk for heart disease.
This is by no means, a small feat.
However, statins is a medical drug and as such comes with side effects.
In fact, negative statin stories are so common that people are actually putting their health at risk by discontinuing their statin treatment – just because some people cannot take the side effects.
This is what a recent study published in the European Heart Journal reveals; suggesting that negative stories about statins have caused people to discontinue treatment of statins early on.
The aftermath was that 2% of all heart attacks and 1 in 100 deaths from CVD was linked with this arbitrary discontinuance of statins, Professor Nordestgaard, lead study author said.
Common Side Effects of Statins
Adverse effects also linked to statin therapy include an increase in diabetes risk. A UK universities’ meta review of clinical trials found that high statin treatment increases the risk of developing diabetes by 12 percent.
Recently, scientists at the McMaster University discovered how statins activate this immune response that results in insulin not doing its job properly. The researchers continue examining the exact mechanism that links statins to diabetes.
Lead study author, professor J. Schertzer, emphasized:
“With the new federal warning label on the risk of diabetes with statin usage, people are heavily debating its pros and cons. We think this is the wrong conversation to have. Statins are a great drug for many people. “
In very rare occasions statins were linked to rhabdomyolysis, a severe case of muscle damage that causes muscle cells to break down. It is said that the higher the statin dose the greater the rhabdomyolysis risk.
Statins reduce the production of cholesterol in the liver. However, during this process, liver enzymes might increase as a side effect.
In cases when this persists and the statin therapy is not adjusted, liver damage might ensue.
statins Doctors advise patients on statins to have a blood test six weeks into their statin use to ensure proper liver function and rule out any possibility of liver damage.
At some point, statin therapy was also linked to eye cataract, acute memory loss and oesophageal cancer.
However, the majority of side effects for people on statins are not life-threatening.
Tolerable, non-dangerous side effects
These include feelings pins and needles, cramps, headaches and migraines, bloating and diarrhoea.
In fact, a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine the found that when statin use continues despite temporary side effects, then the patient can tolerate them in the long-term.
The researchers argue that the side effects observed in the first few weeks of statin therapy might not be exclusively linked with statin use or for that mater the entire category of statins.
- Muscle ache
- Lack of Energy
These might not sound that important to some, but for people on statins can sometimes feel overwhelming.
The most common side effect is muscle pain and tenderness.
Without the energy to exercise and go about one’s daily activities, many are those that when weighing the risk-benefit of statins, say “Not worth it.”
The medical community however reassures that side effects are not the norm and that the benefits of taking statins far outweigh the risks.
To really understand the predominance of some of these side effects consider this.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 3 in 4 individuals on statins report muscle ache.
Muscle pain is so overwhelming for many of these people that it actually encourages them to no longer comply with their treatment and discontinue it after a few weeks.
Should I take statins or not?
If you have high cholesterol and increased cardiovascular disease risk, your doctor will more likely prescribe a statin treatment.
It is important to follow through your statin therapy, have blood tests and other types of tests to ensure your body responds well and no adverse effects are observed.
Statins are a medical breakthrough that saves thousands of lives every year and gives people a better quality of life by reducing heart disease risk.
The medical community repeatedly argues that the benefits of statins far outweigh any short-term risks and that severe adverse effects are rare.
If unsure about the statin dose or your treatment as a whole, get a second doctor’s opinion but under no circumstances should you discontinue your treatment as it would put your health at risk.
Why statins are not enough
Statins are no miracle drug. They can lower your cholesterol by up to 60% in just four weeks depending on the dosage and your medical history but by no means are to be perceived as a cure-all.
Eating healthy foods, staying away from atherogenic ones, monitoring your intake of trans and saturated fats, reducing your intake of sugar and fructose and exercising weekly are guidelines that must be faithfully implemented to ensure you lower your risk for heart disease and that you do your best to live a long, healthy life.