Statins have become very popular lately, and you might be the only person who hasn’t at least heard about them. Statins are classified as drugs or medications that are prescribed by doctors to people suffering from bad cholesterol in their blood.
When people have high levels of cholesterol in their blood, they are prescribed statins, which also help them in the prevention of getting a heart disease or a stroke. Heart disease is a serious threat to the American population. Statistics says that every year 610, 000 US citizens are affected by heart disease.
Recently, research has shown that statins also lower the risk of getting a heart attack, stroke, or dying from heart disease. The risk is lowered by approximately 25-35%. Moreover, newest studies have shown that chances of recurrent strokes or heart attacks are lowered by 40% with statins.
How do statins work?
Statins block the process of the liver enzyme where it produces cholesterol. As you may be aware of, when the body produces too much cholesterol, blood can build in the form of plaque on the walls of the arteries. That is the reason why arteries narrow down and become hard, which causes blood clots, resulting in a possible heart attack or stroke. Statins not only lower LDL cholesterol as well as total cholesterol levels, but they also lower triglycerides and raise HDL cholesterol levels at the same time.
Statins are not as effective as they seem
According to newest research, this popular drug is not working properly. The Vascular Health and Risk Management journal reported that statins worked only 18% of the time used. This is shocking news, because it actually means that they are almost 80% ineffective.
Statins Side effects
No matter how much can statins help in the process of stabilizing plaques in the arteries, they can also cause some side effects to certain people. People who are most likely to suffer from these side effects are those taking a lot of medications, drinking too much alcohol, aged over 65, having liver or kidney disease, and women.
- Muscle damage and pain
This side effect is among the most common ones that people have reported. They have described the pain as feeling sore, weak or tired in the muscle area. Pain can be mild and not causing a lot of discomfort, but can also be bad and causing difficulties in achieving daily tasks.
The worst-case scenario that can happen is the deadly muscle damage named rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis as a serious side effect happens very rare, but can cause great muscle pain, kidney failure, or even death. But don’t be alarmed, because the risk of developing it is extremely low. A few cases in a million are reported, to be exact. The reason why this might happen is if you are taking a lot of statins or a combination of many medications.
What is very strange is that controlled studies have discovered an interesting fact. People taking statins and people taking placebos both developed muscle pain. Also, 29% out of people who started taking statins have stopped doing that after they experienced this muscle pain. The same people felt better when they were given a different variety of statin.
- Liver damage
This is another side effect that could happen when people who are taking statins have an enzyme level increase. This particular enzyme is responsible for liver inflammation. It is not dangerous if the increase is low, but if the level of this enzyme is rapidly growing, the doctor should prescribe a different type of statin.
If you are experiencing any troubles with your liver or you are showing any symptoms of liver damage, your doctor might need to take a liver enzyme test to check the levels before doing any change in the dose of statins. This test is necessary only if you are experiencing the symptoms. Some of those include: pain in the upper abdomen, yellowing of the skin or eyes, extreme fatigue or weakness, urine with a dark color, or any loss of appetite.
- Memory loss or confusion
Researchers at Bristol University in England have found that two most commonly prescribed statins – atorvostatin (Lipitor) and pravastatin (Pravachol) can cause memory impairment. They were found to reduce working memory and performance of recognition in animal experiments.
Although these side effects were proven in animals, there are label warnings on the medications saying that people have also experienced confusion as well as memory loss after taking some statins. When they stopped taking the medications, the side effects were gone.
- Statins may cause cancer
Studies have shown a connection with statins and cancer in certain group of people. Current Oncology published an article in 2008 stating that people are at higher risk of developing cancer when taking statins if:
- they are elderly
- they already have breast cancer
- they suffer from prostate cancer
The reason why statins are linked with cancer is connected to T-cells, or Tregs. These are white blood cells which fight off body infections. When you are consuming statins, your T-cells are constantly increasing, which also causes the other tumor fighting responses to weaken as time passes. However, studies still have to prove whether statins are a real cause for developing cancer.