The Pros and Cons of Statin Drugs

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health
Last Reviewed 03/27/2014

Benefits of Statin Drugs

Statin drugs are a complex medication. In addition to their ability to help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels, statin drugs have been known to help stabilize plaque in acute coronary syndromes. Therefore, it makes sense that they have a probable impact on the calcification process and may also prevent plaque ruptures. 

The Pros and Cons of Statin Drugs

Additionally, research has shown that statin drugs are effective in reducing markers of inflammation such as C-reactive protein (CRP), and that this anti-inflammatory which reduces the risk of stroke. In patients with a history of heart attack, stent, bypass, angioplasty, high CRP levels or high coronary calcium scores, statins may be a reasonable intervention, even if the person has good cholesterol levels.

There are several statin drugs on the market, but the most commonly prescribed include:

  • Zocor (simvastatin),

  • Lipitor (avorastatin), and

  • Crestor (rosuvastatin calcium.

Side Effects of Statin Drugs

However, as I indicated, statin drugs are complicated. For one thing, they have several severe side effects, including the following:

  • Muscle weakness and pain,

  • Dizziness,

  • Headaches,

  • Extreme fatigue and flu-like symptoms,

  • Swelling of the ankles,

  • Liver dysfunction with elevation of the liver enzymes,

  • Neurological problems such as a condition called peripheral neuropathy or polyneuropathy

  • Total global amnesia, which means forgetting where and who you are for a few minutes to several hours. One possible reason for this is that if LDL cholesterol levels get too low, they can interfere with neurotransmitter mechanisms in the brain.

Additionally, statin drugs also deplete CoQ10 levels, which can cause subtle muscle cell damage. Given that that the heart is made of muscle tissue, it’s not much of a stretch to think these drugs could lead to diastolic dysfunction and, subsequently, congestive heart failure. Research has verified the connection between statins, depletion of CoQ10, and congestive heart failure.

Therefore, it is critical that anyone taking statin drugs should be chasing it down with a minimum of 200 mg of hydrosoluble CoQ10 a day.

Natural Ways to Achieve and Maintain Healthy Cholesterol Levels

If tese side effects frighten you (and they should!), then you may be interested in a few of the natural ways to achieve and maintain healthy cholesterol levels. These include:  

  • Niacin. This B vitamin can increase HDL cholesterol and decrease LDL cholesterol levels.  It can also help you attain a low triglycerides level, and can lower the very dangerous cholesterol component, Lp(a). Niacin may cause flushing of the skin, especially when you first start taking it, but this is nothing to be concerned about. Start with 250 mg of niacin three times a day, and slowly work up to 1–3 grams three times a day.

  • Delta tocotrienol. This vitamin E compound acts much like statin drugs, minus the side effects, by interfering with the liver’s ability to produce cholesterol. It also appears to neutralize and alter the most inflammatory cholesterol particle, Lp(a). Aim for 100 mg daily.

  • Fish oil. These healthy omega-3s can help lower blood triglyceride levels. Fish oil is great for those who don’t like the taste of fish. Take 1–3 grams daily, and choose a supplement that gives you at least 300 mg per day of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and 450 mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).

  • Phytosterols. These plant nutrients found in plant oils, beans, seeds, and nuts work primarily by inhibiting the body’s absorption of cholesterol. Take 500–1,500 mg daily.

  • Oats. Research shows that beta glucan, a water-soluble fiber in oatmeal, oat bran, and oats, helps you enjoy good cholesterol levels.  (This is the reason oat cereals can make their heart-healthy claims.) Eating two ounces of oat bran daily for six weeks can result in a 10-percent reduction in cholesterol.

  • Flaxseed. Two tablespoons of crushed flaxseed blended in rice or goat milk or sprinkled on cereal increases fiber in the diet, which promotes regular bowel movements that carry cholesterol out of the body.

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