Statins are a specific type of drug that are usually prescribed by doctors to help lower patients’ cholesterol level in the blood. We see a lot of residents prescribed statins in our long-term care homes. The makers of the Statin drugs also claim they help lower the risk of stroke and heart attack. Statins also may help in reducing inflammation, improving the lining of the blood vessels and reducing the risk of blood clots. The drug works by lowering the liver’s production of cholesterol and helping the liver get rid of the cholesterol in your blood stream. But there are some side effects of statins – including some neurological side effects of statins.
What Are Some Examples of Statins?
These are the examples of statins that are approved for consumption in the U.S.
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- Fluvastatin (Lescol, Lescol XL)
- Lovastatin (Mevacor, Alroprev)
- Pravastatin (Pravachol)
- Rosuvastatin (Crestor)
- Simvastatin (Zocor)
- Pitavastatin (Livalo)
Currently 1 in 4 Americans are taking some type of Statin drug. This number will probably increase in the near future thanks to the recommendations from the US Preventative Services Task Force. There are, however, an increasing number of physicians that believe Statins do much more harm than good. They say there are some neurological side effects of statins. Specifically they are concerned that:
- Lowering cholesterol is not the only way to reduce heart attack risk. There is a lot of research coming out saying higher levels of cholesterol improve brain function and cognitive ability without having much affect on heart attack risk.
- Statins also suppress the levels of vital nutrients in your body:
- CoQ10 – CoQ10 is used for energy production by every cell in your body. Since the heart is one of the biggest energy users in your body, reduction of CoQ10 may actually increase your chance for a heart attack. Make sure if you are taking statins you also take a CoQ10 supplement.
- Vitamin K2 – Without K2, your arteries start building up plaque, which could lead to a heart attack.
- Increased risk of serious diseases – Long-term statin use may increase women’s chances of contracting breast cancer. For men it increases the risk of prostrtate cancer.
Because the physicians believe Statins really don’t reduce the risk of heart attack, but they cause lots of potential side effects of statins, they recommend staying away from taking Statins. The Doctors who believe people should take Statins still note side effects.
Who is at Risk of Developing Side Effects of Statins?
Everyone who takes statins are at risk of developing side effects of statins – including neurological side effects of statins. But not everyone will have side effects. Some people may be more prone to experience these effects than others. The risk factors are:
- Taking numerous medicines to lower cholesterol
- Being a woman
- A smaller body frame
- Senior citizens (65 years old or older)
- Existing kidney or liver disease
- Consuming too much alcohol
What Are The Side Effects of Statins?
These are the common side effects that may affect one people taking statin drugs.
Muscle Pain and Damage
Muscle pain is one of the most common side effects and is often the main complaint of people who take statins. Soreness, tiredness or weakness in your muscle are also some of the symptoms you may experience while taking the drug. In addition, you may feel a mild discomfort or a pain so severe that it can disrupt your daily activities.
If you experience intolerable muscle pain you should either discontinue taking statins or switch to a different variety of the drug. Many people usually do well after switching to a different variety of statin.
Neurological Side Effects of Statins
The FDA has issued warnings on statin labels concerning memory loss or confusion. However, if you stop taking the drugs these side effects will also disappear. Make sure you coordinate with your Doctor if you are thinking about stopping the Statins. There may be some neurological side effects of statins that occur if you stop them too quickly.
Increased Blood Sugar or Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
When you start your statin medication it is possible to develop type 2 diabetes since your blood sugar level may increase. The risk is not likely to happen but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) included a warning about the side effects of statins regarding diabetes on the labels.
One of the purposes of statin drugs is that it prevents heart attacks in diabetics. So the reason of the slight increase in blood sugar levels observed in individuals taking stating is quite ambiguous.
Liver or Kidney Side Effects of Statins
Although it only occurs occasionally, statins can also cause enzymes that signal liver inflammation to rise. If the increase is not drastic, then you can continue taking statins. But if your enzymes increase significantly, you may need to try a different kind of statin.
Liver problems due to statin rarely happens. But your doctor may still require a liver enzyme test shortly after taking statins. One test is usually enough for the whole statin medication unless you begin to show signs and symptoms of liver problems.
It is advisable to be wary about unusual fatigue or weakness, loss of appetite, upper abdomen or chest pain, bloody or dark-colored urine or yellowing of skin or eyes since these can be signs of serious kidney and liver disorder.
Other common side effects are:
- Sore throat
- Runny or blocked nose that are not caused by allergic rhinitis
- Nausea or vomiting
- Bloating or gas
- Flushing of the skin
What are the Serious Side Effects of Statins?
These are the uncommon side effects that can occur in one out of a hundred people. Although rare, these effects are potentially serious and can pose a threat on your life.
Myositis is the inflammation of the muscles. The risk of contracting this disorder increases when other medications are taken along with statins. For instance, if you take statin and another drug that reduces cholesterol, the risk of muscle damage increases compared to taking statin alone.
Elevated levels of CPK
CPK or creatine kinase is a muscle enzyme that can cause muscle pain, mild inflammation, and muscle weakness when elevated. This disorder rarely happens. But when it does, it can take a longer time to resolve.
Rhabdomyolysis is a condition wherein you experience extreme muscle inflammation and damage. This condition is so severe that the muscles all over your body become painful and weak. The damaged muscles excrete proteins into the blood stream that end up in the kidneys. The kidneys will then try to eliminate large amounts of muscle breakdown, which can potentially lead to kidney failure or even death.
Thankfully, this condition is very rare. It only happens in less than one in 10,000 people on Statins.
Other examples of uncommon side effects of statins can happen:
- Loss of appetite or sudden weight gain
- Being sick
- Insomnia or night terrors
- Memory problems
- Ringing in the ears
- Inflammation of the liver
- Inflammation of the pancreas
- Skin problems like acne or rashes
How to Remedy Side Effects of Statins?
Your doctor may recommend some of these options to relieve you from the side effects of statins, including neurological side effects of statins. But before trying them, opt to visit your doctor and discuss these options with him/her.
Stop taking Statin drugs
It is hard to pinpoint if the cause of your muscle problems or other conditions is due to statin or just part of the process of aging. Your doctor may ask you to take a break from statin to determine if your concerns are because of statin or something else.
Switch to another Statin drug
It is possible that one particular statin may cause side effects of statins while other variations would not. It is said that simvastatin is prone to cause muscle pain when taken in high doses compared to other statins.
Alter your dosage
By lowering your dose, you can also lower the manifestation of statin’s side effects. But in turn, may also reduce the cholesterol-lowering benefits you get from the drug. Another alternative is to take the medication every two days.
Ask your doctor for other cholesterol-lowering drugs
There are other types of drugs available to lower cholesterol other than statin. But statin proves to be the most effective in doing so. Instead, you can take a combination of cholesterol-lowering drugs and it provides you the same result with a lower statin dosage.
If you have experienced mild side effects from statin, do not stop taking your medication without visiting your doctor first. Remember also that diet and exercise can be very effective at lowering the risk of heart attack. Don’t feel like you have to rely on drugs exclusively.