Statins - Doing More Than Lowering Your Cholesterol?
Each year, more and more people in the U.S. are prescribed statin drugs to help decrease their cholesterol, creating one of the most accepted categories of prescription drugs available today. But like most other prescription medications, statins are frequently avoidable, since most people can lower their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels merely by improving their diets and getting more exercise. However, in a world where everyone is looking for a magic pill that will help treat any and all health concerns, the problem is that often these magic pills end up doing more harm than good. In 2006, patients filled more than 157 million prescriptions for statins, a class of drugs that promise to lower high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Statin drug advocates maintain that the drugs can not only stabilize cholesterol levels, they can decrease inflammation and lessen the risk of heart attack, stroke and heart disease-related deaths overall. However, what doctors and pharmacists often don't explain are the potential side effects of drugs statins side effects which likely overshadow any potential healing these statins might claim to do.
So how do statins work?
Statins are a group of drugs that are commonly prescribed to decrease levels of cholesterol in the blood of individuals at high risk for heart disease. They include rosuvastatin, atorvastatin, pravastatin, fluvastatin, and simvastatin, each of which is known by different brand names. Statins perform by blocking the workings of a certain liver enzyme the body needs to produce cholesterol.
Side effects of statins
Statins' most common side effects include headache, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, rash and weakness. The most serious side effects of statins include:
- Liver damage. Often people who regularly use statins experience an increase in liver enzymes. If not monitored, increased liver enzymes could cause permanent liver damage. Those individuals who take statins should have their liver function tested regularly.
- Muscle problems. Statins often can cause soreness and pain in the muscles, known as statin myopathy. Appearing in acute cases, muscle cells actually deteriorate, in rhabdomyolysis, where a protein called myoglobin is released into your blood. Myoglobin is capable of damage your kidneys, and often results in kidney failure. Some prescriptions can increase the risk of rhabdomyolysis. If you have been prescribed statins you experience muscle aches or tenderness, call your health care professional.
Anyone who takes these drugs should consider how they affect your organs and other bodily functions, particularly if you have health issues that include problems with your liver.
Lifestyle is still key
Improving your lifestyle continues to be the foundation for decreasing your risk of heart disease, regardless of if you use statins or not. Sticking to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, stopping smoking, boosting your daily exercise and lowering stress are all modifications that will keep you from developing conditions that lead to heart disease. Actually, lifestyle improvements will likely do more to lower your heart disease risk than simply taking the medicine your doctor prescribes.
Photo Credit: DennisSylvesterHurd