Statins: How the drug prevents heart attacks and strokes
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Statins are a group of medicines that can help lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. In recent years, researchers discovered that people taking statins reported increased levels of general fatigue and tiredness, especially after exertion.
In a randomised clinical trial, researchers at the University of California at San Diego evaluated 1,016 patients who received either a low-dose statin or placebo.
The patients initially reported their energy level and fatigue on exertion at baseline.
Six months after the patients started taking statins, the researchers asked them if there had been any changes from baseline, rating their changes on a five-point scale ranging from “much less” to “much more”.
The researchers found that statins were associated with both decreased energy level and increased fatigue with exertion.
In another study published in the National Library of Health, the effects of statins on energy and fatigue were investigated.
No drug is without adverse effect potential, and fatigue and exertional intolerance are adverse effects reported by patients receiving statins, began the study.
“A total of 1016 subjects were randomised equally to 20mg simvastatin, 40mg pravastatin, or microcrystalline-cellulose placebo, to be taken at bedtime in identical blinding capsules for six months.
“Effects were seen in a generally healthy sample given modest statin doses, and both simvastatin and pravastatin contributed to the significant adverse effect of statins on energy and fatigue with exertion.
“Particularly for women, these unfavourable effects were not uncommon.”
According to the researchers, doctors should take these findings in to consideration when prescribing these drugs.
The side effects of statins, particularly its effect on exercise, have gained increasing attention in recent months.
Although some patients on statins report fatigue or decreased energy, the occurrence of fatigue-with-exertion or decreased energy in these patients has not been addressed in previous trials.
The NHS lists other possible symptoms caused by statins which include:
- Being sick
- Memory problems
- Inflammation of the pancreas which can cause stomach pain
- Skin problems such as acne
- Sexual problems such as loss of libido or erectile dysfunction
- Hair loss
- Pins and needles
- Inflammation of the liver which can cause flu-like symptoms.
Alternative approaches for lowering cholesterol levels
High cholesterol levels can also be lowered by making healthy lifestyle changes.
According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), if you have high cholesterol, it’s most important to eat less saturated fat.
Foods that are high in saturated fats are things like fatty and processed meat, pies and pastry, butter, cream, and coconut oil.
As the BHF explains, some foods contain dietary cholesterol but surprisingly they don’t make a big difference to the cholesterol in your blood.
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