Statins 101: Basic information about one of the most widely prescribed medications in the US….and what you might do to avoid them.

Over the past ten years, there has been an exponential upsurge in the medication class: STATINS.   Statin drugs are among the most widely prescribed drugs on the market.  Since the advent of Lipitor (Atorvastatin), many different statins have been released including the generics:  Lovastatin, Rosuvastatin, Simvastatin, Pravastatin, Pitavastatin. Fluvastatin.

Statins are designed to lower cholesterol production in the liver.  They help block the enzyme; HMG-CoA reductase that is needed for liver production of cholesterol.  In this way, they can help lower the risk of further CVD.  They may also help reabsorb some of the cholesterol built up in plaques in your arterial walls.  By preventing and possibly reabsorbing cholesterol, they may prevent further blockage in your blood vessels. Some studies have shown that statins may also reduce inflammation in the blood vessels, a condition that contributes to plaque formation.

(There are two sources of cholesterol in the body:  cholesterol from dietary intake and cholesterol naturally produced by the liver).

Cholesterol is vital to the normal functioning of all the cells in the body.  Excess cholesterol contributes to the development of cholesterol containing plaques that can form in the arteries, cause blockages, and reduce blood flow to the tissues.  If these cholesterol -containing plaques rupture, a blood clot can form further blocking the artery and restricting blood flow. This blockage of blood flow can lead to angina (chest pain), heart attack, and stroke.

If the blockage occurs in the in the brain it can cause a stroke.  If it occurs in the arteries of the legs, it can cause pain in the legs while walking, a condition known as intermittent claudication.

It is important to note that statins are considered a “lifelong commitment.”  Unless the underlying root cause of elevated cholesterol is treated, statins are merely artificially lowering the number and keeping a finger in the dam; a BandAid if you will.  When they bring your cholesterol reading within normal healthy range, the story does not end.  If you stop taking the medication without fixing the cause of the excessive cholesterol, your cholesterol readings will return to the unhealthy range.

And, despite the use of statins, heart attacks and strokes continue.  So, there is more to it than taking a medication.  The person with elevated cholesterol should treat the cause of the problem along with treating accompanying hypertension, elevated blood glucose, elevated triglycerides, and overweight.

Taking statins is not a “free ride” as numerous side effects can occur while taking them.  Some of these side effects are dangerous and those taking the drugs should be made very aware of them:

Muscle pain and damage
The most common statin side effect is muscle pain. People describe the pain in their muscles as soreness, tiredness or weakness. Some state that climbing stairs or walking becomes painful, tiring, or uncomfortable. It need not be confined to the legs! These muscle symptoms can occur in any muscle. Report new, unsual, or increased muscle pain/weakness to your physician.

Very rarely, statins can cause life-threatening muscle damage called rhabdomyolysis ; a condition of severe muscle pain, liver damage, kidney failure and possibly death.

Liver damage
Occasionally, statin use could cause your liver to increase its production of enzymes that help you digest food, drinks and medications. If the increase is severe, you may need to stop taking the drug or change the type of statin. Your physician will likely order a liver enzyme test before and shortly after you begin to take a statin. Contact your doctor immediately if you have unusual fatigue or weakness, loss of appetite, pain in your upper abdomen, dark-colored urine, or yellowing of your skin or eyes.

Rash or flushing
You could develop a rash or flushing after you start taking a statin. Those taking a statin with niacin are more likely to experience this side effect.

Increased blood sugar or type 2 diabetes
Your blood sugar may increase when you take a statin, and pre diabetes may become type 2 diabetes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning on statin labels regarding blood glucose levels and diabetes.

Neurological side effects; Memory Loss
Some researchers have studied whether statins could be linked to memory loss . The FDA warns that some patients have developed memory loss or confusion while taking statins. These side effects reverse once you stop taking the medication. Talk to your doctor if you experience memory loss or confusion.
Don’t stop taking your statin medication before talking to your doctor.

******I am not averse to taking statin medications if they are deemed necessary.  I am averse to prescribing statin drugs without giving the patient an 8 week period of time to decrease LDL and triglycerides and increase HDL on their own.  The most effective programs I have ever worked with is in The Metabolism Miracle and The Diabetes Miracle.  These programs get to the “root” of the problem and enables fat loss, weight loss, decreased LDL, triglycerides, blood pressure, midline fat stores, and blood sugar.  The Metabolism Miracle in combination with a 30 minute/day uptick in physical activity five times/week WILL enable marked decreases in cholesterol within 8 weeks.  It is worth a try as when you sign on to statins, you are most likely signing on for the long haul.

 

 

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About Diane Kress

Author of The New York Times Bestseller; The Metabolism Miracle, The Metabolism Miracle Cookbook, and The Diabetes Miracle. Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, Owner/Director of The Nutrition Center of Morristown, Diabetes Advocate. www.themetabolismmiracle.com www.thediabetesmiracle.com www.miracle-ville.com
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2 Responses to Statins 101: Basic information about one of the most widely prescribed medications in the US….and what you might do to avoid them.

  1. Diana De Paul says:

    Very informative, easy to read article. Thanks for posting.

  2. Statins kill; statins maime; statins take away your life as in functionality and it can be very hard to get it back again. Cholesterol is necessary for every cellular function in the human body. This article is a good introduction but it does not go (in my opinion) far enough in speaking about the terrible side effects of this class of drugs. Statins DO NOT save lives. Lowering LDL has never been proven to save a life – any life! There are some excellent other resources available online such as the works of Doc Graveline and the website Stopped Our Statins which will give you a better understanding of the terrible dangers of statin drugs. And to top it off: ANCEL KEYES was wrong! the cholesterol theory of heart disease is outdated and incorrect.

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