Watch for Side Effects of Statins

Side Effects of Statins

Statins, the most widely prescribed class of drugs globally, include the top-selling cholesterol-lowering medication Lipitor (atorvastatin).

These drugs are commonly prescribed to protect heart health and reduce the risk of heart attacks. However, like any medication, they carry potential side effects.

Statins were originally discovered in the 1980s, and Lipitor gained FDA approval in 1987.

Initially, the drug was only prescribed if patients had already made significant lifestyle changes, such as dietary adjustments, but still struggled to reach healthy cholesterol levels.

However, Lipitor quickly became a profitable solution used for anyone with high cholesterol, regardless of their efforts to improve their health.

As new statins entered the market, more post-approval studies revealed a growing number of side effects and risks associated with these medications.

Balancing risks and benefits is essential when considering any medication, including both prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Unfortunately, patients are often not provided with all the necessary information to make informed decisions and give their informed consent.

This guide aims to explore the nature of cholesterol, how statins effectively lower cholesterol levels, and the major risks and side effects reported by statin users.

Additionally, it offers natural and simple alternatives for reducing dietary cholesterol, empowering individuals to weigh the risks and determine if statins are worth considering or if a more natural approach is preferable.

To begin, we will delve into understanding cholesterol and its potential impact on our health.

What is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a commonly heard word, but what exactly is it and why is it detrimental to our health? In fact, cholesterol is a natural substance produced by our bodies.

It is a waxy fat that serves the important function of keeping the vital components of our cells protected within their walls, while also allowing the passage of nutrients and chemicals through the permeable membrane.

While everyone produces cholesterol in their liver, the amount produced can vary.

The role of diet also plays a significant part in determining a person’s blood serum cholesterol levels, which are assessed through a blood test.

When we consume food, bile from the liver aids in its digestion, breaking it down into various components, including cholesterol.

This cholesterol is then transported back to the liver. Any excess cholesterol that our bodies do not utilize becomes waste and is excreted during our bathroom visits.

Cholesterol levels are typically measured by looking at four main components: total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (often referred to as “Lousy” cholesterol), HDL cholesterol (known as “Helpful” cholesterol), and triglycerides.

The optimal levels for each of these components are as follows: total cholesterol should be less than 200, LDL cholesterol should be less than 100 (lower is better), HDL cholesterol should be 60 or above (higher is better), and triglycerides should be 150 or below.

Now, let’s delve into what these different measurements mean. Total cholesterol consists of both LDL and HDL cholesterol.

LDL cholesterol, or Low Density Lipoprotein, is composed of small particles that pose a danger as they can adhere to damaged blood vessel walls or those affected by inflammation. Inflammation can be triggered by factors such as stress, medications, and certain medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Another component of LDL is VLDL, or Very Low Density Lipoprotein, which is even stickier due to its smaller molecules.

When LDL cholesterol sticks to blood vessel walls, it can lead to blockages in arteries, including the coronary arteries responsible for supplying blood to the heart.

Reduced or blocked blood flow can result in a heart attack. Additionally, clumps of LDL can detach from blood vessel walls and form clots.

These clots can travel through the body and become lodged in narrowed blood vessels clogged with LDL cholesterol, forming what is commonly known as arterial plaque.

If a clot reaches the heart, it can cause a heart attack. If it reaches the brain, a stroke can occur.

Similarly, if it lodges in an artery supplying blood to the legs, tissue death can result. Without proper restoration of circulation in these cases, tissue death and eventually death itself may occur.

On the other hand, HDL cholesterol, or High Density Lipoprotein, is considered helpful because its larger particles aid in clearing clogged blood vessels by removing arterial plaque.

Triglycerides, another type of fat, serve as a means of storing excess energy from the food we consume, particularly animal proteins and sugary, carbohydrate-rich foods.

High levels of triglycerides are also associated with the hardening of arteries.

When the calories we consume are not utilized, they are stored as fat, potentially leading to obesity and subsequent heart health issues.

In many cases, doctors prescribe statins to individuals with high cholesterol in order to lower their total cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes.

However, most people prescribed statins are expected to take them for the rest of their lives.

They are often not given the option to achieve normal cholesterol levels through natural methods such as diet, exercise, and weight loss.

Instead, they are simply advised to take statins.

While many individuals may have heard of statins and know others who take them, it is crucial to thoroughly understand any medications one takes, including why they are prescribed, the duration of usage, and potential side effects.

Some patients may experience severe side effects from statins, making it not worthwhile for them to take the medication.

Others will need to carefully weigh the benefits against the long-term risks.

In the next chapter, we will explore some of the most common side effects associated with statin drugs.

What Are Statins?

Statins are a group of medications used to reduce cholesterol levels in the body.

The most well-known statin is Atorvastatin, also known as Lipitor, which is widely prescribed worldwide.

Other commonly recognized statins include Rovustatin (Crestor), Simvastatin (Zocor), and Fluvastatin (Lescol).

These drugs are classified as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, meaning they inhibit the action of an enzyme in the liver responsible for cholesterol production.

The idea behind statin therapy is that by inhibiting this enzyme, the body will rely more on dietary cholesterol and reduce the formation of arterial plaque, which can lead to hardened arteries.

However, there are concerns regarding the potential side effects of statins.

The liver, being a vital organ with various functions, is particularly sensitive to the inhibition of this enzyme.

Studies have linked statin use to issues with muscle health and formation, as well as liver damage, including impairment of insulin production that may contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

It’s important to note that the impact of statins is not limited to the liver alone. In the following section, we will explore other risks associated with statin usage.

Common Side Effects And Risks When Taking Statins

Taking statins can result in various side effects.

These include muscle pain and damage, liver damage, kidney damage, digestive disorders, skin issues, type 2 diabetes, neurological damage, and heart health issues.

Let’s examine each of these effects individually.

One of the most common side effects of statin drugs is muscle pain and weakness. This pain can range from mild discomfort to severe pain that hinders daily activities.

In certain cases, statins can lead to life-threatening muscle damage called rhabdomyolysis, which can cause severe pain, liver and kidney damage, and even death.

To manage muscle pain, it is recommended to assess the risk/benefit ratio and consider alternative strategies or medications with fewer reported side effects.

Statin drugs can also trigger liver damage over time by increasing the production of enzymes in the liver.

Regular blood tests are necessary to monitor liver enzyme levels and detect any signs of liver damage.

Symptoms such as upper abdominal pain, unusual tiredness, jaundice, or dark-colored urine should be reported to a doctor immediately.

There is a link between high-dose statins and acute kidney disease, which can occur within 120 days of starting statin therapy and increase the risk for up to 2 years.

Since the kidneys play a crucial role in filtering waste products, any damage to them can lead to a decline in kidney function and may eventually require dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting, gassiness, diarrhea, and constipation have been reported by individuals taking statins.

Some studies suggest that taking statins with food in the evenings can help reduce these side effects.

Skin issues, including rashes and flushing, have been associated with statin use. Flushing can also occur with other heart medications.

These symptoms typically disappear once the medication is discontinued.

Statins have been found to increase blood sugar levels, as indicated by A1C blood glucose readings. This raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Regular monitoring of blood glucose levels is important for individuals taking statins.

It is also advisable for everyone, even those not on statins, to get regular check-ups for diabetes and to maintain a healthy diet low in sugary drinks and carbohydrates.

Some individuals may experience memory loss or confusion while taking statins, according to changes in drug labels by the FDA.

These neurological side effects usually reverse upon discontinuation of the medication.

While some studies have linked statins to Alzheimer’s disease, others suggest that they may actually improve brain function.

In summary, while statins can effectively lower cholesterol levels, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects they may cause.

Individualized approaches, alternative strategies, and close monitoring can help manage these effects and ensure overall well-being.

Heart health problems

Although statins are intended to improve heart health, they can actually impact vital levels of vitamins and minerals necessary for maintaining a healthy heart.

For instance, they hinder the protective function of Vitamin K2, which is responsible for preventing arterial hardening.

Statins also deplete selenium, leading to increased inflammation and a higher risk of arterial hardening.

Additionally, they have an effect on coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which plays a crucial role in heart and muscle health.

Other health concerns

Another issue to consider is the potential damage to the mitochondria, the energy centers of our cells that are essential for proper cell function.

Statins specifically affect the mitochondria in the heart muscle, resulting in impaired cell signaling and function, which could ultimately lead to heart failure.

Risk factors

While not everyone who takes statins will experience side effects, certain individuals may be more susceptible to severe reactions.

The following factors may increase the likelihood of serious side effects:

– Taking multiple medications to lower cholesterol

– Being female

– Having a smaller body frame

– Age 65 or older

– Presence of kidney or liver conditions

– Type 1 or 2 diabetes

– Excessive alcohol consumption, defined as more than 2 drinks per day for men and more than 1 drink per day for women under 65, or more than 1 drink per day for individuals over 65.

If you or someone you know has been taking statins and experiencing significant side effects, it may be prudent to consult with a healthcare professional about a safe plan for discontinuing their use.

Alternatively, if you have not yet started taking statins and your doctor is considering prescribing them, it is advisable to request a 3 to 6-month period to explore natural methods of achieving optimal cholesterol levels.

In the next section, we will explore some of the most effective natural approaches to lowering cholesterol levels.

Easy Ways To Lower Dietary Cholesterol Naturally

Statins function by inhibiting the body’s natural production of cholesterol, which is derived from food digestion and cellular synthesis.

By slowing down this process, statins prompt the body to obtain cholesterol from the diet, resulting in a reduction in overall cholesterol levels.

The most straightforward approach to lowering cholesterol is to avoid consuming foods that contain cholesterol, particularly those derived from animals.

In contrast to the typical American diet that includes meat and fast food, the Okinawan diet is primarily plant-based, with only a small amount of fish and sweet potatoes as the main staple.

Another heart-healthy option is the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes small portions of fresh fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and moderate consumption of protein, accompanied by a glass of red wine.

Despite olive oil having more calories than butter, it is considered a healthy fat due to its lack of cholesterol and its ability to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol levels.

It is worth noting that even healthy fast food options should be consumed in moderation as part of a well-balanced diet.

Healthy fats and the beneficial cholesterol they provide are crucial in maintaining clear arterial pathways and preventing blockages caused by “bad” cholesterol.

To further promote overall health, incorporating antioxidants into the diet can reduce the effects of aging and oxidative stress.

Foods such as blueberries, cherries, and green tea are rich in antioxidants. Oatmeal, known for its high fiber content, also aids in lowering cholesterol.

Including just eight walnuts in the diet each day has been shown to boost HDL and decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels.

Similarly, consuming one brazil nut, which is abundant in natural selenium, can provide a healthy source of fiber and a satisfying crunch when added to oatmeal or salads.

Almonds, with their cholesterol-lowering properties, can be added to salads or enjoyed as a nutritious snack.

Avocados and their oil are beneficial fruits rich in protein and healthy fats.

They can be mashed for guacamole, used as a base for green smoothies, or substituted for mayonnaise in certain sandwiches.

Green leafy vegetables, which contain valuable nutrients like Vitamin K and essential electrolytes, are essential for heart health and should be replenished after exercise or on hot days.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna, as well as fish oil supplements, offer a protein-rich alternative to meals traditionally centered around red meat.

Soy-based products such as tofu, soy milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream are low in saturated fat and provide phytochemicals and plant proteins.

Beans and legumes, known for their plant protein and fiber content, contribute to a feeling of fullness.

Kidney beans, pink beans, lentils, and lima beans are excellent choices for incorporating legumes into homemade recipes.

Engaging in regular physical exercise not only increases calorie expenditure but also promotes the development of lean muscle mass, which boosts metabolism and aids in weight loss.

Lowering body fat ratio is crucial as excess body fat releases toxins that hinder weight loss efforts.

By reducing stress levels through practices like meditation, yoga, and engaging in enjoyable activities, inflammation in the body can be minimized.

Inflammation damages blood vessels, allowing LDL to adhere to arterial walls and contribute to atherosclerosis.

Lastly, maintaining healthy blood pressure levels is vital in preventing arterial hardening and the formation of blood clots.

The Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension (DASH) diet, designed to combat high blood pressure, has demonstrated its effectiveness in naturally lowering blood pressure and aiding in weight loss.

Use one or all of these methods and see what a difference it can make to your overall health


Statins may help those who produce so much cholesterol in their own bodies that they can’t get their numbers low enough by natural means such as diet and exercise.

For the rest of us, however, it is possible to increase our good HDL cholesterol and lower our bad LDL cholesterol.

Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables is the best way to lower your dietary cholesterol, to ward off heart disease and lead a longer, happier life.

Say no to statins and yes to better self-care through the right eating lifestyle, moderate exercise, and effective stress relief techniques.