Are Statin Drugs Dangerous?
Living with the Symptoms of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a normal part of the body's daily function, resembling a soft, fat-like waxy substance that is found in the bloodstream and in all body cells. It is used for producing cell membranes and some hormones, and also serves other needed bodily functions. However, when too much blood cholesterol is found in the system, it becomes are major risk for heart attacks and strokes. This condition is known as hypercholesterolemia. There are several remedies that are recommended to combat the effects of cholesterol, ranging from changes in diet, to exercise, to the use of medication. Statins are one class of drug that is are commonly prescribed by physicians. However, safety of use may be questionable.
Using Statin Drugs
Statin drugs are medications prescribed by a doctor to improve blood cholesterol levels. This is largely done by inhibiting the liver enzyme called HMG Co-A reductase, which is an enzyme that reduces the liver's ability to produce cholesterol. The use of statin drugs is to reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, reduce triglyceride levels, and an increase HDL "(good") cholesterol. These types of drugs are meant to reduce the risk of heart attack and death in patients that have coronary artery disease. While these drugs are supposed to decrease the symptoms that propose a risk of heart disease, there are potentially harmful side effects associated with all statin drugs.
Side Effects of Statin Drugs
There are several side effects associated with the use of statins. Some of the more common side effects are gastrointestinal and can include:
- Upset stomach
- Sleep disturbances (associated with some statin medications)
There are other side effects associated with statins, some of which were result for certain statin medications being removed from the market:
Statins can cause elevated liver enzymes in one of every hundred patients.
- Statins can cause muscle disorders producing muscle weakness, and occasional pain, in one of a thousand patients.
- If there is widespread muscle destruction, kidney failure and death can result. More extreme cases resulted due to unapproved doses.
- One of the statin medications was also reported to cause a poorly explained kidney disorder as the result of unapproved dosages.
There have also been rare cases of memory loss that have been reported from people taking cholesterol lowering statin drugs. These reports, however, have been considered anecdotal and have not been substantiated by formal cognitive function testing.
Drug Interactions with Statin
There are also certain fruit and drugs that can interact with the effects of statin, making levels dangerous. Among these combinations are:
- Grapefruit juice: Can increase the amount of statin drugs absorbed from the intestines. If levels go too high, toxicity can happen.
- Certain antibiotics and cyclosporine can increase statin effects and cause muscle damage.
- Making statins with certain types of lipid lowering agents can increase muscle damage risk.
- Some statin types can mix with Coumadin, and increase digoxin blood levels.
Check with a Doctor before Taking Any Medication
Before using any type of medication, it is important to check with a physician to see if there are any potentially harmful side effects, and if the combination of medications could provide dangerous results. Sometimes it is best to try a natural treatment to lower your cholesterol.
Photo Credit: Steve Snodgrass