Statins for Everyone? See the Risks and Side Effects First (and changes you can make for a healthy heart)

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Nicolas Raymond

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Nicolas Raymon

Half a million Americans die of of heart disease every year.

Two new studies have emerged regarding the new 2013 guidelines on statins, the medications used for lowering cholesterol in those at risk for cardiovascular disease. The 2013 guidelines were based on the notion that many people can benefit from statins, beyond those at risk for heart disease. When announced, this opened the door for millions of Americans to begin taking more prescription pills. In the JAMA-published studies–here and here–physicians weighed in on statin therapy for primary prevention – prevention designed to prevent the occurrence of disease and promote health – of cardiovascular disease, and cost effectiveness.

What the New Studies Say

Both studies favor the 2013 guidelines – that people with low risk of cardiovascular disease can stand to benefit by taking statins.

The first study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, focuses on statin eligibility. As summarized by the Washington Post, the new guidelines “would not put too many people on the drug unnecessarily,” and suggests that “the new (2013) guidelines may do a better job of figuring out who needs statins and who doesn’t.”

These new studies suggest you should stay the course of taking statins if the side effects are tolerable.

Side Effects of Statins

Statins can be helpful when considered on an individual basis. There are risks and side effects when introducing any medication or pill into your body. Possible risks and side effects from statins include:

  • Muscle pain and damage: The most common and problematic side effect of statins is that they have been known to break down muscle mass. Statins have shown to cause myopathy, which is a disorder where muscle fibers malfunction, resulting in muscular weakness.
  • Nutrient depletion of CoQ10: According to the UMM, statins reduce natural levels of CoQ10, an antioxidant that both our bodies produce and we consume. “CoQ10 can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause. Some researchers believe that CoQ10 may help with heart-related conditions, because it can improve energy production in cells, prevent blood clot formation, and act as an antioxidant.” UMM suggests that in the case of taking statins, taking CoQ10 supplements can bring levels back to normal.
  • Liver damage: The FDA reports this as rare, but statins can cause your liver to increase the production of enzymes that help digest food, drinks, and medications. Elevated liver enzymes may indicate inflammation or damage to cells in the liver. The liver has a myriad of functions in the body, so it is essential that this organ isn’t compromised. The FDA is now recommending that liver enzyme tests be performed before statin treatment begins and then as needed if there are symptoms of liver damage.
  • Diabetes: A few studies have suggested that statin use may increase an individual’s chances of developing diabetes. According to the FDA in their recently updated expansion on statin risk, there is a small increased risk of raised blood sugar levels, and the development of Type 2 diabetes has been associated with the use of statins.
  • Dependency: Don’t forget about this risk with any medication, especially if nothing is being done to fix the initial problem.

These blog posts (and graphic) can also help you get smarter about medication and your body:

Lifestyle Changes You Can Make

Learn about cholesterol and what kind of a lifestyle changes would lead to naturally lowering it.  Here are a steps to build and keep a healthy heart:

Change can be challenging – if you need something to kick things off, check out these 5 steps that will help you build a sustainable and powerful habit.

How WellnessFX Can Help

It’s never too early to learn about and improve your heart health, no matter what your age is. If you want to know where your heart health stands, do a blood screening and take control of your health.

Any of our physician-recommended blood tests offer markers that give you insight into your cardiovascular health, such as HDL cholesterol, Triglycerides, hs-CRP and ApoB.

We even offer an even deeper look with our Advanced Heart Health test. This comprehensive deep dive includes Cardio IQ™ Lipoprotein Profile and a series of advanced lipid and inflammatory diagnostics. Not only will you see all particle sizes and counts, but you’ll get a basic overview of other cardiovascular health indicators including fatty acids, inflammation, and more.

Get a blood test

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.