We receive all types of questions to our Curiosity web site. Dr. Mallika Marshall answers this one about statins.
Clifford in North Andover is curious, “are statin drugs dangerous to take? They are supposed to prevent heart attack, but do they? Are the side effects worth the risk?”
We know that statins are extremely effective at lowering bad cholesterol and can even raise levels of good cholesterol. And they have clearly been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. There also appear to be some other possible benefits from statin use. That is, they may help lower blood pressure, lower the risk of diabetes, lower the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures, perhaps reduce the risk of dementia and even certain cancers. But as with all medications, there are potential side effects.
One relatively common side effect is muscle pain which occurs in two to eleven percent of patients and usually resolves once the statin is stopped. The drugs can also affect the liver in less than three percent of patients, but again, this usually resolves over time. There have been very rare case reports of memory loss with statins which hasn’t been scientifically proven or disproven and is under further review. But the vast majority of patients tolerate these medications very well and for most, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Resource: What Are Statins? (FDA)
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