While statins are often prescribed, they are also often misunderstood – especially when it comes to their safety.
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Here are 9 common myths about statins and the truth about them:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
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.
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.
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.