Statins: Are they Safe or Are They a Threat to Your Health?
Statins are used by approximately 7 to 8 million people across the UK. They’re one of the most common ways to reduce levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body, and are prescribed to people who have a 20% or higher chance of developing heart disease in the next 10 years. Dr Chris himself takes a low dose statin.
How do Statins Work?
If you’ve got a lot of LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol in your body, this can be potentially very dangerous. Excess amounts of ‘bad’ cholesterol can cause the arteries to harden and narrow, which can increase the chances of heart attack, coronary heart disease or stroke.
Statins, which are taken orally once a day, work to reduce levels of cholesterol in the body, by decreasing production of ‘bad’ cholesterol in the liver. This then lowers your chances of developing heart-related problems.
What About the Bad Press?
Over the years, statins have received a lot of bad press, with many studies demonstrating that there are health risks involved with taking them. Here’s some information about the main side-effects of statins.
- Increased risk of type-2 diabetes. An extensive review, published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, featuring 83,880 participants, found that taking statins increased the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. The report also found that many people experienced aching muscles, fatigue and nausea when taking the drug.
- Kidney failure. A study showed that taking statins also increased the risk of kidney failure and myopathy; a condition that causes weakness and pain in the muscles. However, it also indicated that only 1 in 1,000 users would be affected.
- Muscle-wasting. With higher doses, some users can experience a condition called rhabdomyolysis, which causes muscles to waste. It can even result in a fatal disruption to the rhythm of your heart. However, risks were found to be fairly minimal.
- Nightmares and sleep disturbances. Some patients taking statins have reported experiencing nightmares and disturbed sleep. Others have found that the drugs give them insomnia.
Statins Given All-Clear
However, for every study showing the detrimental side-effects of statins, there seems to be another study demonstrating that they are safe to use. A study carried out in 2014 by the National Heart and Lung Institute in London tested participants using both statins and placebos and found that both groups experienced symptoms, regardless of whether they were taking the real drug or not.
Dr Judith Finegold, one of the authors of the study, comments: ‘Only a small minority of symptoms reported on statins are genuinely due to statins. Almost all would occur just as frequently on placebo.’
Should You be Taking Them?
In this instance, it’s important to weigh up the risks involved. Ultimately, if you are at risk of developing heart disease over the next ten years, then statins can potentially save your life. However, like any other form of drug, there may be other side-effects involved.
It’s important to discuss things with your doctor and come up with the right course of care for your specific health condition.