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Is It Safe to Take Statins?

Statins are commonly used to lower cholesterol; but these drugs aren’t without their side effects. Are statins safe?

These days more people are taking statin medications to control cholesterol levels. Not only do statin medications lower LDL cholesterol in the majority of people who use them, they also reduce the risk of heart disease independently of their cholesterol lowering effect. Studies show that statins are consistently effective at reducing cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. Still, many people worry about the side effects of this class of medications. Are statins safe?

Statin Safety: They Can Rarely Cause Life Threatening Muscle Breakdown

Up to ten percent of people on statin medications experience muscle pain and weakness – a condition known as statin myopathy. This condition may be uncomfortable, but it’s not life-threatening and it usually goes away within a few weeks after stopping the medication. On the other hand, there’s a more serious risk of taking statins – a condition called rhabdomyolysis where muscle tissue breaks down and causes damage to the kidneys. Symptoms include severe muscle pain, weakness, and dark colored urine. This is a serious condition that’s life threatening and requires intensive treatment to prevent kidney failure. Fortunately, this condition only occurs in about one in 30,000 people on statin medications.

Are Statins Safe?: Do They Cause Memory Loss?

Statins are associated with a lower risk of dementia, but, ironically, there have been reports of people developing memory loss and problems thinking while on them. It might be tempting to blame the memory changes on other factors, but in most of these cases normal memory returned once the statin was stopped. Despite this, studies haven’t shown an association between statins and memory loss, but the large number of anecdotal reports raises concern.

Statin Safety: They Increase the Risk of Nerve Problems

According to studies, statin users have a sixteen times greater risk of developing nerve damage or neuropathy than the average population. Peripheral neuropathies cause burning pain, weakness and numbness in the extremities and can be quite difficult to treat. Despite the increased risk relative to the general population, peripheral neuropathies aren’t a common statin adverse effect, but it’s something that every statin user should watch for and be aware of.

Other Statin Adverse Effects

Statin users may experience elevations in liver enzymes and a multitude of other symptoms including gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, and headache – but these are rarely life threatening. They can also interact with other medications.

Are Statins Safe?: The Bottom Line?

There are certainly some safety issues associated with the use of statins. Before starting a statin, discuss these issues with your doctor and also consider other natural alternatives for lowering cholesterol levels such as red yeast rice. Statin medications work well, but they aren’t suitable for everyone.

References:

Medscape.com website. “Statin-Associated Memory Loss: Analysis of 60 Case Reports and Review of the Literature”.

Sciencedaily.com website. “Statin Drugs May Increase Risk Of Peripheral Neuropathy”.

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