The cholesterol-lowering medications known as statins are the most widely prescribed drug in the US, and doctors frequently give them to healthy people whose only worrisome symptom is elevated cholesterol. But it seems like studies keep finding that these drugs pose multiple risks, and questionable benefits for most people. Here are a few reasons you should question your doctor before filling that prescription:
- A new study found that high-dose statins raise the risk of diabetes (though the study authors were quick to tell the New York Times that the cardiovascular benefits of the drugs outweigh the diabetes risk).
- Statins probably won't help you unless you have a history of cardiac disease.
- Statins won't extend your life if you're a woman.
- If you've had a hemorrhagic stroke they'll up your risk of a second one.
- Some statins can cause muscle damage in high doses.
- Statins come with a long list of possible side effects, including muscle pain, digestive problems, and liver damage, for starters. When I wrote about statins last fall a couple of readers left must-read comments about their personal unfortunate experiences with statin side effects.
Nonetheless, many doctors strongly believe that these drugs prevent heart attacks and save lives, so there must be something to them (right?). In New York Times coverage of the new statin/diabetes study, study author Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic, is quoted as saying: "We can't dismiss it, but I also don't want to scare people who need these drugs. They are the best thing we've got going to prevent coronary disease events."
So if your doctor has put you on a stain, or wants to, there may be a very good reason. But if you have any doubts, definitely do your research (by looking into the studies cited above and those listed here by Healthy Skeptic blogger Chris Kresser) and talk to your doctor about whether these drugs are truly right for you.
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