Statins Cut ‘Bad’ Cholesterol

hearthealth

You have your blood tested, your “bad” cholesterol is high and your doctor prescribes a statin to cut plaque buildup on the walls of your arteries, thus reducing the risk of angina, heart attack and stroke.  Which, of course, is good.  But should you worry about side effects of this potent drug?

Although proper diet and exercise is critical in the fight against heart disease — the nation’s leading cause of death — most health experts agree that the benefits of statins largely outweigh the risks associated with this prescription medication.  That’s why more than one in four residents of the United States have increasingly been using statin drugs since it was introduced in 1987.  It’s also interesting to note that about twice as many men than women 65 and older are currently prescribed this medicine.

Statin drugs block the action of a chemical in the liver that is necessary for making both high-and low-density cholesterol.  Even though cholesterol is necessary for normal cell and body function, very high levels of it can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition where cholesterol-containing plaques build up in arteries and block blood flow.  A high-density cholesterol level is the most common reason that a person is prescribed a statin.

Most people who take this drug do not experience side effects.  Those who do have a reaction report headaches, a feeling of pins and needles in their arms and legs, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea or a rash.  Only a few experience memory loss, cataracts, liver failure and skeletal muscle damage, so it is very important for users to report ill effects to their doctors.

Meanwhile, studies indicate that statins may play a role in slowing the aging process. As we get older, our cells do not divide and multiply as quickly as they used to.  Statins delay cell deterioration, a recent study in Naples, Italy, has found.

Lisa Burbage

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