Statins side effects: What are the advantages and disadvantages of taking statins?

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Statins are a vital treatment for people with high cholesterol levels. High cholesterol can become very dangerous as it can lead to the clogging of arteries which can subsequently increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and heart disease. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of taking statins?

What are statins?

Statins are a group of drugs which are used to lower blood cholesterol levels.

These drugs do this by blocking an enzyme in the liver which is necessary for making cholesterol.

Cholesterol plays a role in normal and healthy cell and body function.

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However, extremely high levels of cholesterol can prove dangerous.

High levels of cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis which causes cholesterol-containing plaques to build up in the arteries and block blood flow.

Essentially high cholesterol means you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in the blood and is mainly caused by eating fatty food, a lack of exercise, being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol.

Cholesterol can also be inherited and run in families generally.

What are the advantages of taking statins?

Statins can be offered to patients with high cholesterol as this medicine works to lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood.

LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad cholesterol” and statins reduce the production of it inside the liver.

In addition to lowering your cholesterol, stains can also help to stabilise the blood vessel lining which benefits the whole body.

These drugs can make plaque less likely to rupture in the heart, lowering the risk of a heart attack.

Statins can also effectively relax the blood vessels which can lead to a decrease in blood pressure.

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What are the disadvantages of taking statins?

Different statins may have different side effects.

Common side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling sick
  • Feeling unusually tired or physically weak
  • Digestive system problems, such as constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion or farting
  • Muscle pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Low blood platelet count.

Uncommon side effects of statins include:

  • Sickness
  • Memory problems
  • Hair loss
  • Pins and needles
  • Inflammation of the liver (hepatitis) which causes flu-like symptoms
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) which can cause stomach pain
  • Skin problems, such as acne
  • Sexual problems such as a loss of libido.

There are also a number of rare side effects which have been known to happen after taking statins.

Muscle weakness is one such symptom with people occasionally experiencing muscle inflammation and damage.

Some people experience a loss of sensation or tingling in the nerve endings of the hands and feet.

Tendon problems may also happen as a result of taking statins.

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