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Heart & Vascular Health
Statin Myths

9 Myths About Statins

Commonly prescribed, often misunderstood

While statins are often prescribed, they are also often misunderstood – especially when it comes to their safety.

Here are 9 common myths about statins and the truth about them:

  • eyeballing

    Myth 1: Statins will hurt your ability to exercise

    Statins and exercise are both good for heart health. Most people are not affected by statins when they exercise. However, there are up to 10 percent of patients who do have some muscle pain and weakness with statins. If you think you are part of this group and that your statins are making you more achy than usual after a workout, ask your doctor about changing the type of statin you are taking.

  • heart damage

    Myth 2: Statins will cause muscle damage and hurt your heart

    Statins have been tested in over 1 million patients and have not been found to cause heart damage. While they don’t damage your heart, statins can affect the large muscles in your body and cause mild muscle ache, which is found in up to 10 percent of people who take statins and, they can, even more rarely, cause more severe muscle pain — which is a sign to talk to your doctor, who will have you stop your statins immediately. In either case, you should tell your doctor if you are feeling muscle pain or weakness.

  • eyeballing

    Myth 3: You should avoid statins if you have diabetes

    People with diabetes benefit the most from statins, which reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke and death. While statins may increase blood sugars, this does not offset the overall benefit that statins provide. If you take statins, be sure to monitor your sugars, watch your diet and include regular exercise in your routine.

  • Dementia

    Myth 4: Statins cause cognitive dysfunction or dementia

    On the contrary, recent studies show that statins create a protective effect from cognitive dysfunction or dementia with long-term use.

    However, in 2012, the FDA changed the drug label for statins to include a warning: Memory loss and confusion have been reported with statin use. These reported events were generally not serious and went away once the drug was no longer being taken but there is lingering confusion. More recent studies have looked at dementia and cognitive changes and actually found that statins may be beneficial and can prevent dementia – especially with long term use.

  • Natural Supplements

    Myth 5: Natural supplements like red yeast rice are safer than taking a statin

    Doctors don’t prescribe supplements in place of statins because there are no controlled or reliable studies about the efficacy of supplements and heart disease prevention. While statins have to prove their efficacy, supplements do not, and are not regulated and tested the way drugs are before they can be prescribed. Their strength varies greatly in non-prescription preparations and they can contain ingredients that are not listed in the label. Remember: Don’t mistake “natural” for safe..

  • Statin Intolerance

    Myth 6: Being statin-intolerant means you will never be able to take a statin

    Research conducted by Cleveland Clinic’s Preventive Cardiology Department has found that most people can tolerate statins either by changing the medication type or by staggering their doses. You need to work with a specialist to find the best dose for you.

  • Statin Myth

    Myth 7: Statins cause cataracts and liver damage

    There is very little chance that statins could damage your liver. This rare side effect occurs in less than 1 percent of the population. An observational study showed increased risk of cataracts, but more studies are needed. There is no definitive proof that statins cause cataracts but there is ample proof that statins help prevent heart disease. It’s important to note there are possible side effects and risks with every medication you take. You need to follow up and work with your doctor to achieve the best results.

  • Everyone should take statins

    Myth 8: Everyone should take statins

    Statins are the treatment of choice for people with high cholesterol and those with coronary heart disease. You should only take statins if you need them. Statins also benefit the blood vessel lining, reduce cell damage from oxidation and keep blood platelets from clumping, which reduces the risk of a blood clot.

  • Everyone should take statins

    Myth 9: The elderly do not benefit from statins

    Statins can also benefit the elderly depending on their life expectancy and the likelihood of achieving a true benefit with statin therapy. Diet and exercise are important parts of risk factor management and should be continued while on statin therapy. While some people are able to achieve their goals through strict diet alone, many will need to take a statin to meet their LDL goals and reduce the risk of progression of heart disease.

Chat live with our doctors 

Still have questions about statins? Chat live with Steven Nissen, MD and Michael Rocco, MD on Wednesday Dec 18 at 11:30am (EST) during our live Spreecast video chat. The doctors will be discussing the new cardiovascular prevention guidelines. Register Now.

Tags: cholesterol, dementia, diabetes, heart disease, heart health, statins, supplements
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  • GeorgeBMac

    Points one and two are not correct. The medical profession has been conditioned to dismiss or explain away claims of muscle problems — unless they are accompanied by confirming lab data (like a CK level) — so these problems are under-reported (which makes for a self-fulfilling prophecy).

    But the truth is, among those who exercise a lot, statins do impair exercise by weakening the muscles. And, this is well documented fact that statins impair the production of Q10 as part of the same process they use to impair the production of cholesterol. The processes cannot be separated. To reduce the amount of cholesterol the body produces, they have to reduce the amount of Q10 it produces. And, Q10 is required for the mitochondria to produce ATP — which is the fuel used by muscles to do their work. If you don’t have enough Q10, you won’t have enough ATP and your muscles will be weak and tired…

    In addition, earlier this year a study was completed that proved that those who take a statin have a 20% increased risk for sprains and strains and various musculoskeletal injuries. But, again, physicians have been conditioned to ignore those complaints — so they are under-reported.

    Yes, statins can save you life. But if you take them, over a perioid of years, be prepared for these muscle problems to creep up on you. They tend to be insidious.

    • Kaye H

      OH, YES…I had severe muscle cramps…tried several different lbrands, and never ever had a night’s sleep while on them. Would walk the cramps off only to be awakened again and start the same routine. I give up….my doctor is disappointed, but I cannot fathom going another night with a statin…no matter what the brand name or dosage.

  • Debbie

    I took Simvistatin for about two years. I felt I was turning into a walking zombie! I worked on my feet for 6 1/2 hrs, 5 days a week. I couldn’t wait for the end of the day when I could sit down. My brother, who had had a stroke and heart attack, had also been on it and decided to quit taking the drug. He said within 2weeks he felt so much better, so I did the same. Such a huge difference, but too late, the damage had already been done. No doctor will believe me that this has affected me greatly. I had started walking with a limp for no known reason. No pain behind the limp, but I was still experiencing muscle pain. In the middle of my back, shoulders, elbows, hands , feet, knees. Recently had a Microdiscectomy on my L5- S1. Didn’t stop any of this pain. But now I face the possibility of Parkinson’s!? Was it brought on by the pain I have endured these past 5 years? I don’t use a lot of pain relievers, I just live with the pain. I’m not seeking drugs per say, but I want answers! I have tried using like Tramadol or a pain relief drug right before I go to bed and I awake with less pain. What can I do? I will not take statins ever again. I am beginning to think this is why my dad was walking the way he was but he is now deceased so I can’t ask him about it! Just frustrated!

  • ak

    Doctors with a good bedside manner are 90 times less likely to be sued for malpractice, then those who like to pretend they are a tv star and scream at their patients.

  • frustrated patient

    Probably sponsored by the makers of lipitor…doctors should pay attention to diet and life stile changes instead of continuing to push drugs that make people sicker. What is the last thing they have cured? Exactly, nothing.

    • Dillonvale1964

      For some of us, diet and lifestyle changes are enough to keep cholesterol under control. For many, though, it’s not enough. Argue all you want, but that is a scientific fact. Doctors can’t just tell everybody to go home and eat their vegetables and watch them get sicker and possibly die. You’d sue the doc for malpractice for not giving you drugs.

      • GeorgeBMac

        True… BUT:
        Even if you followed the typical heart diet (like the AHA), you would still not lower cholesterol enough to matter. You need to go further — such as onto the Ornish reversal diet… (I.e.,less of a bad thing is still bad for you — and that’s what the health care profession usually pushes when it comes to lifestyle changes).

        Also, the health care profession cannot simply tell people to clean up their life style. Most people do not have the knowledge or resources to be able to do that. They need to support the patient in making those changes with knowledge (such as what to buy and how to cook it — or how & how much to exercise) and then follow-up with ongoing support for those changes…

        In the end, the patient will be better off and the cost of preventing a problem is always less than fixing one once it happens.

        • rosalind

          hI, i FOUND UR COMMENT’S INTERESTING, i AM WONDERING IF CERTAIN PPL R PEDISPOSED TO THE MUSCLE PAINS. i HAVE BEEN ON STATIN FOR 5 YEARS NOW BECAUSE OF FAMILY HISTORYOF HEART DISEASE. i AM 70 YRS OLD, i PLAY TENNIS TWICE A WEEK, THE y ONE DAY A WEEK. i PLAY 3.5 SINGLE STILL AND 3.5 DOUBLES. THE GIRLS i PLAY IN SINGLES R 29 AND 39 AND THE 6 R IN EARLY 40′S. NO PROBLEMS WITH MY MUSCLES AT ALL. THE INTERESTING QUESTION IS, i’m I the exception? The fact that I have always worked out, in high school and since, may have made the diff. I have played tenis since I was 35, but very very active before, during and since. What r ur feelings about this?

          • GeorgeBMac

            It’s good that you are maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And, it is good that you tolerate the statin so well — because statins have been proven to improve your chances of not developing vascular diseases.

            But, at the same time, they also increase your chances of developing muscle weakness, muscle wasting diseases as well as muscle injuries…

            The trouble is that those side affects are often insidious and we don’t realize that they are happening. And, quite often, the health care profession is well conditioned to promote the statin and dismiss or marginalize any claims about related side affects.
            But, the key to all of that is: statins ‘increase the chances’ … that you will not develop vascular diseases and also that you will develop muscle related problems. But they do not guarantee either…

        • FHL72

          Ahh, but the profits of selling pharmaceuticals is even better than actually fixing any problems. If health problems are eradicated, who will big pharma sell their drugs to?

  • Duane Abbajay

    I will Avoid statins unless absolutely necessary. I have witnessed the cognitive decline of many once they began statins.

  • Dee

    Since I have started lipitor 1 1/2 months ago I am frequently constipated.

  • Ana Pantoja

    Muy bueno

  • sfFan

    I quit counting after my doctors prescribed the third type of statin. Every one caused muscle weakness and muscle pain. And they didn’t seem to have any affect on my triglyceride levels, which was my main problem. I finally quit taking statins altogether, with my doctors’ approval and get my blood checked every three months or so.

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      sfFan – see note above. Nice to hear you are working with a doctor who works with you – patients need to be treated individually – there is no one-fits-all option for everyone. betsyRN

  • dfins

    The pain I endured while on statins was unbearable and caused muscle spasms in my biceps and quads. Exercise was especially painful and lactic acid like buildup caused an inability to bike or walk more than 2 or 3 blocks without sitting down to rest up and relieve the stress on my muscles. Sleeping was interrupted by spasms in my feet, arms and legs and it felt like my blood was boiling. I took them 3 or 4 times with the same effects. It did not matter who prescribed them for whatever reason. My cholesterol did go down but it has not risen dangerously without the treatment after 5 years. Please do not say muscle pain is mild and transient. It takes over the body.

    • The_Beating_Edge_Team

      dfins – it is very important to know that all medications do not work for all people and not all people react to them the same way – some people may have side effects and some may not. If you cannot tolerate statins, and you are able to control your cholesterol with lifestyle change alone – that is ideal. If you need some medication control, there are other medications that can be used for those who are statin intolerant. In addition, there are new medications on the horizon for those that cannot take statins. Wishing you best of health. betsyRN

  • LisaBOhio

    In the six years I took simvastatin, I went from working heavy retail, 10 to 12 hours on my feet, running my own business, to gaining 60 pounds and being unable to walk the grocery store or do mild housework. I went from being a successful businessperson to being unable to find the words to finish a sentence. I wanted to die. A different doctor took me off the statin, and my pain was gone in five days. Now I am on Zetia (not a statin, but with the muscle pain listed as a side effect), and the pain is back, and my words are failing me again. It hurts to touch my skin, move my arms, to stand, to sit, to lie down. My next appointment I will be walking into the office with a cane. Yes, my cholesterol is too high, and statins lowered it to the 70s total cholesterol. Is life worth living if I cannot walk and am too mentally disabled to hold a job?