What are Statins?
Statins are a group of drugs that reduce the liver's production of cholesterol. They are among the most widely prescribed drugs on the market, with more than 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 45 taking them. They include:
- Lipitor - atorvastatin,
- Lescol - fluvastatin ,
- Altoprev – lovastatin,
- Livalo - pitvastatin,
- Pravachol - pravastatin,
- Crestor - rosuvastatin,
- And Zocor – simvastatin
Statins work to reduce cholesterol-induced arterial plaque by blocking an enzyme called HMG CoA Reductase which the liver uses to make cholesterol. They can do nothing to reduce dietary cholesterol. This seems like an elegant solution doesn’t it? Unfortunately, that same HMG metabolic pathway is also responsible for the production of numerous molecules critical to your health. By blocking the HMG enzyme statins also cause a depletion of:
CoQ10 - a critical anti-oxidant used for energy production by every cell in your body - vital for good health, high energy levels, longevity, and general quality of life. Statins deplete your body of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which accounts for many of their devastating results. Although it was proposed to add a black box warning to statins stating this in 2014 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided against it.
Ketones – compounds created by the conversion of fats that are then burned by your cells as fuel. Ketones are crucial nutrients that feed and repair your mitochondria. Reduction of ketones can be responsible for fatigue, muscle pain, and other side effects.
Vitamin K2 – activates the calcium-binding properties of proteins to help move calcium to the proper places in your body like bones and teeth. Ironically, Vitamin K2 protects your arteries from calcification. Without it, plaque levels worsen. Loss of K2 defeats the purpose of statins.
Dolichols - a class of compounds that are involved in message transport between cells, neuropeptide formation, and mitochondrial DNA error correction. Statins create intracellular chaos, waylaying messages and derailing many critical body functions.
Selenoproteins - a group of proteins containing the trace element selenium. Selenoproteins are important for normal brain function. Decreased amounts of selenoproteins , caused by statins, can lead to impaired cognitive function and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), Huntington’s disease (HD), and epilepsy.
I know what you’re thinking – talk about throwing out the baby with the bath water. And for all that - statins only address one risk factor for heart disease - high cholesterol levels. There are many other risk factors that statins do not touch (and in some cases increase) like high blood sugar, insulin resistance, belly fat, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides (blood fats).
So What Are These Risks?
Myopathies: one of the most common complaints of people taking statins is muscle pain. You may feel this pain as a soreness, tiredness or weakness in your muscles frequently in the hip and thigh area. The pain can be a mild discomfort, or it can be severe enough to make your daily activities difficult.
Myositis: a more serious form, called myositis (inflammation of the muscles) occurs in a small percentage of people who take statins, especially those taking a combination of a statin and a fibrate (another cholesterol-reducing drug). People struggle with movements as simple as lifting their arms over their heads or getting up from chairs
Rhabdomyolysis: extreme muscle inflammation and damage. With this condition, muscles all over the body become painful and weak. The severely damaged muscles release proteins into the blood that collect in the kidneys. The kidneys can become damaged trying to eliminate this waste which can ultimately lead to kidney failure or even death. My reading stated that fortunately, rhabdomyolysis was extremely rare because it occurs in less than one in 10,000 people taking statins. Looking at US 2010 Census figures there were over 870,528,039 people in the US over the age of 45. If one in four is taking statins that’s 217,632,009 people and if 1 in 10,000 develops Rhabdomyolosis that’s 21,763 people in the US facing this condition. I don’t find that fortunate – do you?
Liver Damage: rare but concerning. Statin use may trigger a rise in enzymes that signal liver inflammation. Symptoms include fatigue, stomach pain, and appetite loss, yellowing of skin or eyes, or dark-colored urine. If you feel these symptoms contact your Dr. immediately.
Type 2 Diabetes: statins have been shown to increase your risk of diabetes by increasing insulin resistance (lowering your body’s ability to take sugar out of your blood and convert it to energy) thereby raising the blood sugar levels in your bloodstream. These drugs also rob your body of certain valuable nutrients (or your body’s ability to metabolize them), which also impact blood sugar levels. Two nutrients in particular, vitamin D and CoQ10, are both needed to maintain ideal blood glucose levels. A 2011 meta-analysis confirmed the higher the dosage of statin drugs being taken, the greater the diabetes risk.
Cognitive Impairment: some people complain of cognitive struggles with statin use, for example, fuzzy thinking and forgetfulness. Not surprising. Cholesterol is also essential for your brain, which contains about 25 percent of the cholesterol in your body. It is critical to maintaining the connections between your neurons, which allow you to think, learn new things, and form memories.
Cancer: research has shown that long-term statin use (10 years or longer) more than doubles women's risk of two major types of breast cancer: invasive ductal carcinoma and invasive lobular carcinoma. According to researchers statins block the squalene pathway (squalene is the precursor to cholesterol), which is essential in preventing breast cancer.
Cataracts: an objective review of PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane review databases found that for every 10,000 people taking a statin, there were 307 extra patients with cataracts. This was supported by a separate JAMA study, which also revealed that the risk of cataracts is increased among statin users compared with non-users. Cataract is a clouding of your eye lens and is the main cause of low vision among the elderly.
Additionally: fatigue, headache, difficulty sleeping, flushing of the skin, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramping or pain, bloating or gas, diarrhea, constipation, and rashes have all been linked to statin use.
Who Is Most At Risk?
Not everyone who takes a statin will have side effects, but some people may be at greater risk than others. Increased risk factors include:
- Taking multiple medications to lower your cholesterol
- Being female
- Having a smaller body frame
- Being age 65 or older
- Having kidney or liver disease
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Drugs and foods (like grapefruit) that interact with statins
Some drugs that may interact with statins and increase your risk of side effects include:
Amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone), a medication for irregular heart rhythms
- Gemfibrozil (Lopid), another variety of cholesterol drug
- Protease inhibitors, such as saquinavir (Invirase) and ritonavir (Norvir)
- Some antibiotic and antifungal medications, such as clarithromycin (Biaxin) and itraconazole (Onmel, Sporanox)
- Some immunosuppressant medications, such as cyclosporine (Gengraf, Neoral, Sandimmune)
If you think you're experiencing side effects from statins, don't just stop taking the pills. Talk to your doctor to see if a change of dosage or a different type of medication might be helpful. There are many drugs that may interact with statins, so be sure your doctor is aware of all the medicines you take.
Research and explore lifestyle changes in diet, exercise, sleep and stress reduction to improve your overall health and look at Omega supplements like DuoFlex Emu Oil Multi-Omegas for natural heart support. People have reported significant reductions in overall cholesterol levels with higher HDL (the good cholesterol) levels and a drop in triglycerides; as well as a reduction in muscle and joint pain. Emu Oil is also a good source of Vitamin K2 and ATP.
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