According to the UK National Health Service, “Statins are a group of medicines that can help lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. LDL cholesterol is often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’, and statins reduce the production of it inside the liver.
Having a high level of LDL cholesterol is potentially dangerous, as it can lead to a hardening and narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
A doctor may recommend taking statins if either: you have been diagnosed with a form of CVD, or your personal and family medical history suggests you’re likely to develop CVD at some point over the next 10 years and lifestyle measures have not reduced this risk.”
As with any drug, there’s the potential for side effects, so the first course of action from a doctor will be to reduce the problem of LDL cholesterol by diet and lifestyle changes. If the patient is unwilling or unable to make these changes, or they don’t resolve the problem, statins are the default prescription.
As a consequence, around 8 million people in Britain and 35 million in the US take statins.
The NHS doesn’t think the side effects (such as diarrhea, a headache or feeling sick) are serious enough to outweigh the benefits, but some other sources have a different view.
In “The End of Alzheimer’s”, statins are listed as a toxin which can play a part in development of Alzheimer’s Disease.
In “How Not to Die”, it quotes a study of women taking statins for over 10 years, which showed a doubling of the risk of breast cancer.
The Mayo Clinic says that:
Commonly reported side effects of statins include: Headaches; Nausea; Muscle and joint aches.
Rarely, statins can cause more serious side effects such as: Increased blood sugar or type 2 diabetes; Muscle cell damage; Liver damage; Memory problems.
If that’s not discouraging enough, a recent study published in the British Medical Journal in August 2020, and reported in the UK Daily Mail and elsewhere, claims that statins are not particularly effective at reducing the risk of dying from heart disease. Having said that, not all medical experts agree with the conclusions of this study.
The case regarding side effects seems not yet proven one way or the other, but why take a chance with side effects when you don’t have to?
The lesson is that if your LDL cholesterol is high, then you should act on diet first, before resorting to popping pills.
Link to my post on “Cholesterol”
Link to my post on “Heart Disease”
Link to my post on “Alzheimer’s Disease”
Link to my post on “How Not to Die”