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Statin Drugs and Their Side Effects

Statin drugs are taken by more than 102 million Americans (20 years old or older) who have high cholesterol.  High cholesterol is when your level is above 200mg/dL.  There are more than 35 million Americans who have cholesterol levels above 240 mg/dL who are at high risk of heart disease.  Another alarming statistic is that 20% of our youth (age12-19) have at least one abnormal lipid level.

cholesterol levels

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in your body and is in many foods.  Cholesterol is needed for your body to work properly but too much can build up in your arteries and can lead to heart disease and stroke.

There are lifestyle changes people who have high cholesterol can make to help lower their levels.

Enjoy a low fat, whole grain and lean protein diet.

Exercise a minimum of 2.5 hours per week.  Youth under the age of 17 should get a minimum of 1 hour of exercise per day.

Maintain a healthy weight!  Obesity is linked to high cholesterol.

Don’t smoke.

Of course, sometimes healthy lifestyle changes are not enough to lower cholesterol levels.  Your physician may prescribe a statin drug to help lower your level.  There are benefits and risks with taking these medications and knowing this information is very helpful when deciding on treatment.

Some of the benefits of taking a statin drug include:

Lowering triglyceride levels and LDL

Raising HDL levels (good cholesterol)

Reduce the risk of heart disease

Help prevent additional heart attacks and strokes when people already have heart disease

There are serious side effects from statin drugs as well to include:

Higher liver enzymes.  The higher the dose, the greater the effect on your liver enzymes.  In some cases, this can lead to liver failure and hepatitis.

Muscle pain and weakness is another side effect.  These side effects increase as you age.  Almost 30% of people who take statin drugs discontinue them due to extreme muscle fatigue and weakness.

Higher blood sugar levels or developing type 2 diabetes.

Some people have memory loss or confusion while taking statin drugs.

Statin drugs can be very beneficial but it is important to consult with your physician before stopping your medication.  Changing medications, lowering your dose or adding CoQ10 supplements can also help.

Living a healthy lifestyle with a whole grain, whole food diet goes a long way to keep your cholesterol at a healthy level.  Load up on fruit, veggies, and lean protein.  Make sure you get enough exercise and keep your weight within normal ranges.  Statin drugs should be a last resort when lifestyle changes are not enough.