Statin Side Effects: Are You At Risk?
Over 25 million people in the United States take statins to help reduce cholesterol, heart attacks, and strokes, and that number is expected to climb.
As the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association continue their research and work to improve practice guidelines, statins are gaining prominence. So much so, that scientists are now exploring new applications of these drugs for other health issues. This could mean that soon many more millions of Americans will be taking statins.
But like many medications intended to help you regain your health, there are side effects of statins, particularly among those people who have natural risk factors.
Who’s at Risk of Statin Side Effects?
It is reported that 1 in 10 people will experience some side effects while taking statins. Depending on the brand, these reported side effects may vary. You should check the label of your cholesterol-lowering medication and find the FDA required warnings to be sure.
Before you start taking any kind of medication, it’s a good idea to weigh your options and speak to your doctor about your risks. This following list will help you determine whether you fall into any of the high-risk groups:
- You’re aged 70 years or older
- You have a history of liver disease
- There’s a history of myopathy or rhabdomyolysis
- Your daily alcohol consumption exceeds the recommended limit
- You’ve been prescribed other cholesterol-lowering drugs (like fibrate) and experienced side effects
Most people will suffer through the common side effects, hoping that they will subside over time. But if you experience any of the following symptoms, don’t hesitate to check in with your doctor.
Common Side Effects of Statins
- Muscle pain
- Nose bleeds
- Clouded thinking
- Increased blood sugar
- Sore throat
Living a healthier lifestyle, eating healthy foods, getting plenty of exercise, and supplementing your diet will also have a positive effect and help you deal with these side effects.
Uncommon Side Effects of Statins
The list of statin side effects goes on to include more than a dozen health problems, like memory loss and confusion. Often these neurological side effects will go away, but other side effects may linger and be cause for concern.
The following not-so-common side effects are reported to affect 1 in 100 people. Some of these symptoms could potentially be signs of a more serious issue that may affect your long-term health. Make sure to seek the advice of your physician immediately, if you experience any of these side effects:
- Digestive problems: vomiting, loss of appetite
- Sleep disturbances
- Dizziness, blurred vision, ringing in the ears
- Liver damage (hepatitis)
- Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
- Itchy red, rash
- Physical weakness, tiredness
While this list of side effects seems never-ending, it’s important to remember that they are not common.
Rare Side Effects of Statins
This next list of symptoms is marked as “rare,” and can affect 1 in 1000 people:
- Blurred vision and other disturbances
- Bruising and bleeding
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
These side effects should be taken seriously and you should seek immediate medical attention to increase your chances of reversing them.
Another rare side effect that has been known to occur with statin medication is a rare and life-threatening condition called rhabdomyolysis.
Life-Threatening Side Effects of Statins
One of the most eye-opening side effects of statin drugs is a rare and painful syndrome called rhabdomyolysis. There is a very strong link between taking high doses of statin drugs and developing rhabdomyolysis, but only in rare cases.
What Is Rhabdomyolysis?
This rare condition is a result of muscle injury caused by many factors, including statins. Here are some of the other most common causes of rhabdomyolysis:
- High-Dose Medications: statins and antipsychotics.
- Drug Abuse: heroin, cocaine, amphetamines.
- Acute Muscle Strain: common in athletes, but also people who are unconditioned that train beyond their physical limits.
- Accidents: road accident, bad fall, crushing injury from a heavy object.
- Muscle Compression: lack of movement from being unconscious or being bedridden for extended periods.
- Heat: sun stroke, hyperthermia, severe burns.
Though rare, it’s important to know the symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, because if you catch it early enough, your doctor will be able to prescribe the right course of treatment to make you feel better.
Symptoms of Rhabdomyolysis
The first thing you’ll notice if you have rhabdomyolysis is muscle weakness. This will be accompanied by a muscle ache at the affected area. As the condition progresses, several other symptoms will become noticeable like:
- Muscle inflammation
- Muscle tenderness
In more advanced cases, you will begin to feel sick and develop a fever. This will lead to other symptoms like:
- Reddish, tea-colored urine
- Infrequency of urination
- Sometimes weight gain
- Sometimes joint pain
At this advanced stage, there will be extensive damage to the liver, leading to kidney failure and ultimately, death.
What Can I do about the Side Effects from Statins?
First and foremost, speak to your healthcare provider and make sure to cover all the symptoms you are experiencing. Nobody is better equipped than your physician to provide you with the tools you need.
Beyond that, you can follow some common sense steps, which may include supplementing your diet.
“CoQ10 is the number one supplement recommended by cardiologists to their patients that are taking a Statin medication.” – AlphaimpactRx ProVoice Survey, May 2016
For example, Statins are well known for reducing high cholesterol, but they’re also very good at robbing your body of CoQ10 – a co-enzyme naturally produced by your body, and which your cells use to produce the energy your body needs for cell growth and maintenance. CoQ10 also functions as an antioxidant, which protects the body from damage caused by harmful molecules. Your heart, liver, and kidney contain the highest concentrations of CoQ10.
When statins are in the bloodstream, your natural levels of CoQ10 are compromised and there may not be enough to do their job effectively. According to the Mayo Clinic, CoQ10 deficiency can also result due to disease, low dietary intake, or high CoQ10 use by the body. Depending on the cause of deficiency, supplementing with CoQ10 or increasing dietary intake may be an effective response on your part.
The Statin + CoQ10 Connection
Statins work by inhibiting the natural process by which your body produces cholesterol. This same process is also responsible for the natural production of CoQ10 in your body. You could say that while statins are trying to do their work lowering your cholesterol, they continue to “bump” with your CoQ10, and it’s never a friendly encounter! At each meeting, while they are fighting to lower your cholesterol, statins are also obliterating CoQ10. That’s bad news and detrimental to your normal CoQ10 levels.
It’s simply a matter of too much of one thing and not enough of another. But by supplementing with CoQ10 and restoring your natural levels, you can improve this imbalance. In fact, CoQ10 is the number one supplement recommended by cardiologists to their patients that are taking a statin medication.
This list of side effects is not meant to scare you, but help you understand the benefits and risks of cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any of the above mentioned side effects or if you are just thinking of taking statins. Your health depends on knowing the facts and having the full picture.