The Side Effects & Symptoms of Statin Medications

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Q&As, Cholesterol
Last Reviewed 03/22/2014

The Side Effects & Symptoms of Statin Medications

As many of you know, I firmly believe cholesterol lowering statin medications are over prescribed. In my opinion, the only people who should be on a statin drug are middle-aged males with coronary artery disease. That group has the most to gain. But for most people, the long list of side effects of statin drugs isn’t worth the risk. 

Regardless of that fact, doctors are still writing prescriptions for statin medications in record numbers. Plus, they’re sending patients off to the pharmacy with little or no information about what these drugs can do to their patients’ health. So, today I wanted to answer some of the most commonly asked questions I receive about statins.

Questions About Statin Medications

Q: Are memory issues a statin drug side effect? 

A: The insanity about treating total cholesterol and getting LDL cholesterol down to less than 60 is absolutely causing memory issues. The gray matter of the brain is 60 percent to 70 percent fat, and you need cholesterol in the brain. Cholesterol forms the sheaths that surround our neurons, and it’s vital for neurotransmitter delivery (the signals between neurons). Without cholesterol, cognition goes down. 

Q: Can statin medications raise your blood sugar?

A: Yes. When the JUPITER study came out, as well as some results from the Women’s Health Initiative, post-menopausal women taking statin medications experienced blood sugar elevations up to 48 percent! Pre-menopausal women had blood sugar elevations of 13 percent. High blood sugar can cause proteins in your blood to combine with excess blood sugar (called “glycation”), which can prematurely age you. The good news is that if you go off the statin medication, blood sugar elevations will come down.

Q: Is it safe for someone who has had a heart attack and four stents to stop taking a statin medicaiton? My husband is gluten free and has completely changed his diet, and he has lost a lot weight and has reduced his inflammation.

A: Your husband is doing everything right, but I would not stop his statin medications. In middle-aged men, statins not only thin the blood, they also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties—which is a huge benefit for someone who’s had a heart attack and stents. This is where I where my conventional hat of recommending statin medications with proven heart disease.

Q: If someone is currently taking statin medicaitons, can they stop taking them or must they be weaned off of them?

A: Before you do anything, you must discuss it with your doctor. Plus, no one should come off statin medications if they're having symptoms of chest pains or angina because under those circumstances stopping a statin could be life-threatening.

Q: Which supplements should I be taking with my statin drugs?

A: Every person who's taking a statin drug should also be taking 100 mg of high-quality coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) twice a day. If you've developed signs of muscular weakness, you should add 1-2 grams of L-carnitine twice a day, and if you need even more support take 5 grams of the sugar called D-ribose twice daily. 

Now it’s your turn: How do you feel about statin medications?

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