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STATIN DRUGS: Lower Cholesterol and prevent heart attacks. But at what cost?
Statins are a class of drugs often prescribed by doctors to help lower cholesterol levels in the blood. In doing so, they help prevent heart attacks and stroke. Studies show that, in certain people, statins reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and even death by about 25% to 35%. Studies have also shown that statins can reduce the chances of recurrent strokes or heart attacks by about 40%.
Who should take Statins?
As far as the Chiropractic world is concerned, way too many people are on these drugs already. Estimates are that in addition to the people already taking them, the medical profession wants another 15 to 20 million people to be taking statins based on their cardiovascular risk factors. Your medical doctor can do a simple blood test to determine the amount of cholesterol in your blood. If you have high levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol, you have a greater chance of heart disease.
However, it's good to have high levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. HDL cholesterol prevents plaque buildup in the arteries by transporting the bad (LDL) cholesterol out of the blood to the liver. There, it is eliminated from the body.
How do statins work?
Statins work by blocking the action of the liver enzyme that is responsible for producing cholesterol. Too much cholesterol in the blood can cause a buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries. That buildup can eventually cause the arteries to narrow or harden. Sudden blood clots in these narrowed arteries can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Statins lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. At the same time, they lower triglycerides and raise HDL ("good") cholesterol levels. Statins may also tend to stabilize plaques in the arteries. That makes sudden blood clots less likely.
Naturally, Chiropractic has always espoused wholistic living and a healthy diet and furthermore suggests that most of the people on Statin drugs don't need to be; these folks could control their cholesteral issues with lifestyle changes. That said, the medical world also advocates maintaining a healthy lifestyle but hastily adds that taking Statins can improve things even further. A few things that Chiropractic and Medical doctors do agree on is:
Eat a balanced, heart-healthy diet
Get regular physical activity
Limit alcohol intake
Are there statin side effects?
Most people who take statins tolerate them very well. However, like all drugs, there are side effects with Statin drugs and everyone should be aware of them:
The most common statin side effects include:
flushing of the skin
muscle aches, tenderness, or weakness
nausea and/or vomiting
abdominal cramping and/or pain
bloating and/or gas
Which statin side effects are serious?
Myositis, which is inflammation of the muscles, can occur with statins. The risk of muscle injury increases when certain other medications are coupled with statin use. For example, if you take a combination of a statin and a fibrate -- another cholesterol-reducing drug -- the risk of muscle damage increases greatly compared to someone who takes a statin alone.
Other dangers of statins include other muscle conditions, which can be serious in rare cases. First, there can be statin muscle pain. Known as myalgia, this pain can generally be resolved quickly by discontinuing the medication. Myalgias may be uncomfortable, but, medically speaking, they're harmless.
Statins can also cause your CPK levels to be mildly elevated. CPK or creatine kinase is a muscle enzyme that can be measured in the bloodstream. Muscle pain, mild inflammation, and possibly weakness are also seen. This condition, though uncommon, can take a long while to resolve.
The third and most severe serious side effect of statins is called rhabdomyolysis.Muscles all over the body become painful and weakened because of extreme muscle inflammation and damage. CPK levels are extremely elevated as well. The kidneys can become overworked trying to eliminate a large amount of muscle breakdown caused by statin use. The severely damaged muscles release proteins into the blood that collect in the kidneys, thereby causing damage. This can ultimately lead to kidney failure or even death. Fortunately, rhabdomyolysis is extremely rare. It occurs in less than one in 10,000 cases.
When should you call the Medical doctor if you take a statin?
Tell your doctor, whoever he or she is (Chiropractor or MD) about any over-the-counter or prescription drugs, herbal supplements, and vitamins you are currently taking or plan on taking. If you experience any unexplained join or muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness while taking statins, you should call your medical doctor immediately. Pregnant patients or those with active or chronic liver disease should not use statins.
Which statins are approved for use in the U.S.?
The statin medications that are approved for use in the United States include:
Mevacor or Altocor (lovastatin)
*Since their arrival on the market in the 1980s, statins have been among the most prescribed drugs in the United States, with about 17 million users.