How Statins Work & Their Side Effects

Statins are medication used for lowering cholesterol. 80% of cholesterol is synthesized by human body while 20% come from diet. If cholesterol levels get high, Statins are used to bring it down.

Statins can bring down the percentage of LDL to 50% and increases HDL by 15% within a short period. You can start seeing significant changes in 2 to 4 weeks of taking Statin.

How Does Statin Lower Cholesterol?

Statins help lower cholesterol in two ways:

  1. Statin inhibits HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme used in production of cholesterol by your liver. The end result being less production of cholesterol by liver.
  2. Secondly it absorbs cholesterol present in your body.

When are Statins Prescribed?

Statins are usually prescribed to people with the following conditions:

  1. Angina pectoris (chest pain) due to atherosclerosis (lesion in arteries)
  2. History of Heart Attack to prevent any further attacks
  3. High risk for heart attack
  4. Increased level of blood cholesterol. If the LDL level is above 190 mg/dL or greater.
  5. People with diabetes and level of LDL between 70 and 189 mg/dL.

What are the Types of Statins?

  • Atorvastatin
  • Cerivastatin
  • Fluvastatin
  • Lovastatin
  • Mevastatin
  • Pitavastatin
  • Pravastatin
  • Rosuvastatin
  • Simvastatin

Each type of statin has different potential. The most potent being Rosuvastatin and Atorvastatin. And least potent being Fluvastatin.

These statins are marketed with different brand names such as Crestor, Lipitor, Lescol, Pravachol, Vytorin, Zocor etc.

Side Effects of Statins

Here are some side effects starting from most common to rarest ones:

  • Headaches
  • Gastro Intestinal problems
  • Muscle and joint Pain
  • Rash
  • Memory loss
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • High Blood Sugar
  • Mental confusion
  • Muscle or Liver Damage

Who Should Not Take Statins?

People with liver disease and women who are pregnant, breast feeding or trying to get pregnant should avoid statins.

Statins react with other medications. Below is a list of medication. If you are on any one of them then you shouldn’t take statin.

  1. Clarithromycin
  2. Diltiazem
  3. Erythromycin
  4. Itraconazole
  5. Fibrate &
  6. Verapamil

How to Get the Most from Statin Drugs?

Best way to achieve full potential of Statin drug is to exercise and eat healthy diet. Depending upon your fitness level the type of exercise you can do will vary. As to diet, consume less amounts of animal fats especially liver.

P.S: My Dad got his third heart attack after eating a plate of chicken liver. 

What are Alternatives to Statins?

Here are some alternatives to Statins:

  1. Fish Oil – Fish oils are known to reduce triglyricides level by 50%. Moreover, it also boosts HDL levels. Most studies show that 1 to 4 gm of Fish oil are beneficial.
  2. Sterols and Stanols – These are supplements which reduce the LDL level by 15%. Experts recommend a daily dosage of 2 gm.
  3. Soluble Fiber – These are present in our food. For every 10 gm of fiber consumed you lower 5% of LDL. It is recommended to take 30 gm of Fiber per day. Most fruits and vegetables contain soluble fiber including oats.

Important: Talk with your doctor for statin alternatives or before stopping statins.