Cholesterol reducing drugs, called statins, are the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S.A. In fact, more than 215 million prescriptions are prescribed per year as 25% of Americans over the age of 45 take these drugs as a preventative measure against cardiovascular disease.
Statins are generally prescribed to those with raised levels of cholesterol, which is known to clog the arteries leading to heart attacks and strokes. When statins were discovered they were a major breakthrough for those diagnosed with heart disease or narrowing of the arteries.
However, the prescribing of statins moved on to being offered to those who had not been diagnosed with heart disease. Statins are now commonly prescribed to those with raised cholesterol levels as a primary preventative against the possibility of cardiovascular disease. A recent scientific review has shown that statins are not effective for primary prevention and indeed may be producing harmful side effects.
Cochrane Collaboration Review of Use of Statins
UK researchers analyzed the results of 14 previous studies on over 34,000 people. The results were published in what was known as the Cochrane Collaboration, an international independent network to help health care providers, policy makers and patients make decisions from unbiased reports on the effectiveness of health care.
One of the problems highlighted was that in the original studies on statins there was selective reporting of the outcome. Positive results for statins were reported; negative results such as reported side effects were ignored.
Secondly, the studies had been performed on a cross section of people, including those with cardiovascular disease. The positive results on those with heart disease influenced the overall results.
Thirdly, only limited evidence showed that statins would be a cost effective way to improve a person’s quality of life.
The outcome was that many people who did not need, and would not benefit from statins were prescribed them.
Side Effects of Statins
For those with pre-existing conditions of cardiovascular disease, the benefits may well outweigh the side effects, but for those who may be getting no benefit whatsoever, the side effects from statins are an unnecessary risk.
Common side effects of statins are myalgia (muscle pain), tiredness, intolerance to exercise due to weak or painful muscles, memory loss, tingling or numbness in limbs, sleep problems and sexual dysfunction. More serious side effects have also been reported.
One particular downside to taking statins is that it blocks the body’s natural ability to create coenzyme Q10. This vital enzyme is responsible for producing energy and is an important antioxidant. Those diagnosed with cardiovascular disease should consider supplementing their statin meds with a daily 200mg supplement of CoQ10.
Other Options for Preventing Heart Disease
Those who have been prescribed statins as a primary preventative may want to look at whether statins are the best option. There are plenty of other ways to protect your heart by not smoking, exercising regularly, caring for a pet and eating a heart-healthy diet. The only side effects from these recommendations are positive ones!