Statins: How the drug prevents heart attacks and strokes
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Once you have been told to go on statins, the likelihood is that you would need the medication for life – that, or drastically increase your risk of a life-threatening stroke or heart attack. Statins are prescribed to people who have extremely high levels of cholesterol in their blood. Without the cholesterol-busting medication, the waxy substance will clump together and has the potential to completely block blood flow to vital organs.
The cholesterol charity Heart UK explained how statins slow down the production of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) in the liver, where it’s made.
“Because the liver isn’t making so much cholesterol, it then takes cholesterol out of your blood to make bile with, so your blood cholesterol levels fall,” the charity noted.
While greatly effective, statins could lead to side effects if you are of older age, if you have other medical conditions, or if you drink a lot of alcohol.
Statins may also lead to side effects if you take other types of medication or you take part in “heavy exercise”.
Five factors shown to increase risk of side effects:
- Advancing age
- Other medications which work in a similar way
- Other medical conditions
- Higher alcohol consumption
- Heavy exercise.
Statin side effects
One of the most common complaints of statins is that they can lead to muscle pain.
The differentiating factor when it comes to muscle pain
When it comes to muscle pain, the type caused by statin use is typically widespread; the pain radiates all over the body.
In more extreme cases, muscle pain can progress into myopathy where the muscle no longer functions properly.
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Considered a muscle disease, such a symptom should not go unaddressed by a medical professional.
“If the GP suspects myopathy he or she should request a blood test to look for elevated levels of creatinine kinase (CK),” Heart UK noted.
Adjustments can be made to the type of statin you take or to the dosage, so do not suffer in silence.
There are five different statins that are prescribed in the UK, which are:
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- Fluvastatin (Lescol)
- Pravastatin (Lipostat)
- Rosuvastatin (Crestor)
- Simvastatin (Zocor).
Muscle pain is not the only side effect statin use can lead to.
In fact, the NHS lists seven other “common” ailments one may suffer from when taking statins.
These include: headaches, dizziness, nausea, feeling unusually tired, digestive issues, sleep problems, and low blood platelet count.
Digestive issues encapsulate constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion and farting.
There are other, less common, side effects to be aware of, which include:
- Being sick
- Memory problems
- Hair loss
- Pins and needles
- Inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), which can cause flu-like symptoms
- Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), which can cause stomach pain
- Skin problems, such as acne or an itchy red rash
- Sexual problems, such as loss of libido (reduced sex drive) or erectile dysfunction.
If any side effects are bothering you it’s worth talking to your doctor about it.
For most people, however, statins are well tolerated and do not lead to side effects.
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