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.
Bupa health care site says you may have heard a lot about the possible side-effects of statins.
It notes: “All medicines can cause some side-effects, but most people who take statins have no problems.”
Common side effects of statins include a lack of energy. Indeed, in a study of more than 1,000 adults, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are more likely than non-users to experience decreased energy, fatigue upon exertion, or both.
Subjects rated their energy and fatigue with exertion relative to baseline, on a five-point scale, from “much worse” to “much better”.
Those placed on statins were significantly more likely than those on placebo to report worsening in energy, fatigue-with-exertion, or both.
The researchers state that decreases in energy, and increases in exertional fatigue on statins represent important findings which should be taken into account in risk-benefit determinations for statins.
Bupa says other signs are:
- A blocked nose
- A sore throat
- Nausea (feeling sick), diarrhoea, constipation, indigestion
- Mild pain in your muscles, joints, neck and back
The NHS says there are five types of statin available on prescription in the UK. They include atorvastatin, fluvastatin pravastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin.
The health body recommends maintaining cholesterol levels below 5mmol/L.
In the UK, however, three out of five adults have a total cholesterol of 5mmol/L or above, and the average cholesterol level is about 5.7mmol/L, which can be a risk factor in heart disease.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) says a research study suggested in very rare cases statins may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The BHF adds: “However statins are among the safest and the most studied medications available today.”
The NHS notes a review of scientific studies into the effectiveness of statins found around one in every 50 people who take the medicine for five years will avoid a serious event, such as a heart attack or stroke, as a result.
You usually have to continue taking statins for life because if you stop taking them, your cholesterol will return to a high level within a few weeks.
The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any type of medicine you’re taking. It is run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
High cholesterol levels can also be lowered by making healthy lifestyle changes.
According to the 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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