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Lowering Cholesterol: the Side Effects of "Statins"

Updated on January 1, 2017
DzyMsLizzy profile image

Liz is not in the medical field, but is fascinated by the subject. She urges people with health issues to see their doctor for diagnosis.

Statins Are a Widely Prescribed Class of Drugs

The most commonly prescribed use of these drugs is to treat high cholesterol. Known by many names, some of which are Zocor™, Crestor™ and Lipitor™.

There are many more, but those three are probably the ones about which you hear the most because they are so heavily advertised on TV and in print media.

Do you know what your pills are doing to you?
Do you know what your pills are doing to you? | Source

What Is the Harm?

Too many people blindly and trustingly believe, "If my doctor prescribed it, it must be safe and will help me get well." Sadly, that is not always true.

There are hundreds of thousands of assorted drugs and treatments, and doctors are hard-pressed to keep up with them all, along with all the other things they must continually study to keep their licenses current.

All too often, the doctors' knowledge is limited to the brochures and slick sales pitches produced by the large pharmaceutical manufacturing corporations. The doctors themselves are believing, just as blindly as their patents, that surely, if the drug has passed the testing stage and been approved for marketing, that it is safe.

Not so fast. The next time you see an ad on TV for some drug--any drug--listen very carefully to all the disclaimers about possible harm in the form of side effects. The list differs from drug to drug, but it is there on each and every ad, required by law.

The drug companies don't like this--you'll also notice the disclaimer is spoken quite rapidly, in a low-toned, bland voice, often at just a tad less volume than the background music for the ad, while distracting visuals of happy, healthy people play on. They don't really want you to hear or pay attention to this long list of possible side effects.

These side effects can run the gamut from runny noses to death. And that last, my friends, is nothing to sneeze at. When I hear them rattling off that list, my personal reaction, (should I ever develop the problem the drug is intended to treat), is, "Never mind--I'll just keep the original problem."

What is the harm statins can really cause? The article linked at right gives an excellent rundown of the ugly details, including how "Big Pharma" cheats on its studies, by manipulating statistics in their favor.

Where Does Cholesterol Come From?

Cholesterol comes from two main sources: the body manufactures what it needs on its own in the liver (a certain amount is needed). The body needs this compound for several functions, including producing hormones, brain function, and dissolving fats from the bloodstream by means of bile acids, and maintaining cell membranes.

The rest comes from our diets. Only foods of animal origin contain cholesterol. This includes all meats, (Yes, Virginia, all poultry counts as meat), fish, including and especially shellfish, eggs and dairy products.

This means that lacto-ovo vegetarians do consume at least some cholesterol, depending upon how much dairy and eggs they consume. Vegans do not take in any cholesterol in their diets. Since the body is able to make all it needs, there is no need to supplement cholesterol via the diet: hence all the problems we find with "too much of a good thing" when we visit the doctor.

By now we've all become familiar with the differences: HDL and LDL types; HDL being the 'good' kind, and LDL being the 'bad' kind. This is easily remembered by thinking of the "L" at the beginning of LDL as standing for "lazy."

Now, What's Wrong With Those Statins?

I hate to disillusion you about your physician's competence, but the sad truth is, the vast majority of teaching universities and their affiliated hospitals are funded at least in part, and sometimes heavily, by the drug-pushing "Big Pharma" corporations.

The unfortunate result is that doctors are indoctrinated (dare I say, brainwashed?) into a culture of pushing drugs at problems instead of trying to actually fix the underlying condition with holistic methods, such as diet and exercise.

Exercise is a major factor in lowering cholesterol
Exercise is a major factor in lowering cholesterol | Source

The ads discussed earlier, (as applied specifically to the statins), usually include somewhere in that long list of disclaimers a statement along the lines of, " combination with proper diet and exercise...."

In truth, proper diet and exercise alone are probably more responsible for treating the condition of a too-high cholesterol reading than the drug, if the patient actually changes their diet and commits to exercise.

Just as guilty as the doctors are their patients, who have grown lazy, and instead of exercising and eating right would rather continue to eat junk and be couch potatoes, washing down their bad habits with a handy pill in the hopes that it will absolve them of the effects of their lifestyles.

Sorry, it doesn't work that way. That list of side effects is horrific; and I find the warning that you need to go for "...frequent blood tests to check your liver function.." to be a very scary thing indeed! In other words, these drugs can harm and even shut down the very organ responsible for making and controlling your cholesterol.

They are pushing a drug to fix a problem that the body itself can fix, given cooperation by the inhabitant of said body, and that drug is capable of destroying the body's ability to perform a particular function, so that we will remain forever dependent upon said drug. Talk about job security!

The pharmaceutical industry does not create cures; it creates customers.

— Anon.

Partial List of Side Effects of Statins

muscle soreness
type 2 diabetes
liver damage
increased blood sugar
neurological side effects
cognitive/memory impairment

Buried Side Effects

These are the truly frightening ones--the ones they'd rather you not know about, or consider. Every time you are given a prescription medication these days, you are handed a sheaf of papers explaining "everything" about that medication: what it is used for, how, why and when to take it, it's trade name as well as its generic name, and that long, long list of side effects.

Now, to be fair, the length of that list is to some extent the fault of the litigious society we have become, with lawyers ever at the ready to sue the pants off anyone perceived to have caused a problem, however small. A small minority of the effects on those lists are required to be there by law, because it might have happened a single time during test trials.

Nonetheless, if it happened even once, it still happened, and you must be advised. The next thing to note, however, is that the list is incomplete, and says so. It refers you for 'further information' to read the pamphlet that came with the medicine. However, that is not given to you--it is behind the counter, for it came with the bulk supply to the pharmacy.

You need to be pro-active, and do your own research. Luckily, in this day of the Internet, that is relatively easy to do. Just be sure to check your sources, and don't believe everything from the first link the search engine hands you.

Especially be wary of any studies by drug companies themselves. Very few such studies have been done by a third party, using independent laboratories for testing. No, the drug companies either do their own testing in house, or pay a testing agency to do a study that will put their product in a good light.

Remember to follow the money trail when evaluating a study's veracity.

Beware of drug-company-funded tests
Beware of drug-company-funded tests | Source

I Speak From Second-Hand Experience

My husband was prescribed some of these drugs after undergoing a coronary bypass graft back in 2001. At first, everything seemed fine, but as they kept him on these drugs for a period of about 4 years, we began to notice increasing problems with his memory. (That comes under the "cognitive/memory" issues listed in the table above.)

In fact, he was taking a scary preview-trip down Alzheimer's Lane! Remember, Alzheimer's Disease is about losing cognitive function, and it is progressive. It is not about forgetting your keys, or managing to lock yourself out of the house. It is, rather, things like forgetting what your keys are for--as in not remembering their function, not simply forgetting which key opens which lock--although that could be a precursor.

"Oh, my goodness!  Where am I?" Memory loss is a scary side-effect.
"Oh, my goodness! Where am I?" Memory loss is a scary side-effect. | Source

The Effects are Cumulative

You hear stories of people wandering out the door and being found a mile or two from where they live with no idea why or how they got there, or even knowing where they are. That is Alzheimer's Disease, and my husband was beginning to see some of those warning signs. He'd go down the hall, and not know why he was there.

Right away, I tackled the papers from the pharmacy, and sure enough, right near the end of the list, far past where the doctor probably bothers to read, there it was: "memory impairment" as a possible side effect. I then hit the Internet, and found further evidence to support that. We mentioned it to his doctor, who brushed it off, as if disbelieving it, but we convinced him to change hubby to a different medication, (though it was still a statin)!

Things did not improve, and in fact, began to get worse. We again confronted the doctor, and this time, I was armed with my research papers, the relevant points marked with yellow highlighter pen. I shoved them under his nose, and said, "See: it says right here...!" The doctor then finally took him off the statins, and gave him a different medication.

The effects, according to the paperwork (I call them "scare sheets"), are supposedly temporary, and should reverse themselves once the medication is stopped. Unfortunately, he was on them for too long a time before we convinced the doctors, and there was some reversal, but his memory for some things is still impaired some 10 years later.

He's regained his ability to know where he's going and why, but he constantly asks me things such as, "When is my appointment?" When I've already told him 5 times in 2 days. As a person who in his younger days held a genius-level IQ, and had a photographic memory, you can imagine his frustration at this state of affairs.

Has It Happened To You Or Your Loved Ones?

Have you, or anyone you know, been adversely affected by Statins?

See results

How Do You Know It's a Statin?

First, ask your doctor. Then, ask if there is something else that will work as well or better, and with fewer side effects. If you didn't ask, or he didn't tell you, check the label. I won't say "all" of them, but a many of them clue you in with the letter combination of, "or" at the end of their name; Zocor,™ Lipitor,™ Crestor™, etc.


Please note that I am not a doctor, nor am I employed anywhere in the health care field.

The statements I've made here are based upon my own experiences with my husband, my own research, and are not intended as medical advice for anyone else.

Always discuss your health conditions with your own doctor or other health care practitioner, as everyone is different, and treatments must be tailored to the individual.

© 2012 Liz Elias

What is Your Experience?

Submit a Comment

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, smcopywrite,

    Thanks very much for your lovely comment. I'm most pleased you found the article useful.

  • smcopywrite profile image

    smcopywrite 3 years ago from all over the web

    This a remarkable article and wonderfully put together. Useful info is always appreciated. Thanks for sharing something we can all use. knowledge it power! nicely done

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, travel_man1971 ;

    Thank you; I'm glad you liked the article. However, I must again point out that 1) "statins" are NOT over-the-counter drugs, they are by doctor's prescription only, and 2) I am not a doctor or health care professional of any type. I simply reported on our experience with these drugs.

    The reason any drug requires a prescription is because there ARE many possible adverse side-effects, and a doctor must be in charge of when and if to order them.

    That said, while you should always be a strong advocate for your own health care, you must do so in cooperation with your doctor, of whatever type you choose, be it a traditional western medicine physician, holistic practitioner or an eastern medicine specialist.

    Thank you very much for stopping by and commenting.

  • travel_man1971 profile image

    Ireno Alcala 3 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

    Thanks for the warning. I will resort to natural treatment rather than those over-the-counter drugs.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi, there, fpherj48,

    Thank you so very much for your high praise. I’m glad you were able to get off those horrid drugs, and found something that works as well or better and without the side effects! You are living proof that “alternative medicine” works.

    The main trouble is, natural remedies cannot be patented, so no money (read huge profits) can be made from their sale, hence, “Big Pharma” is in the business of pressuring the FDA to ignore and/or discredit these treatments that have been around for centuries. (That’s not to say that ALL ancient remedies are safe or effective--there was plenty of quack medicine around in the Victorian era and before…) but on the whole, nature provides the remedy for the ailment.

    There is a wild plant that often grows very near to stinging nettles, for instance, and it is the antidote for the sting. (I wish I could recall the name of said plant…)

    Many thanks for the votes; glad you enjoyed the article!

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Dzy....Excellent hub....very well written and easy to comprehend. Important stuff for people to know! Yes, I did experience unpleasant side effects while taking "provostatin." Most notable was severe muscle aches. Having been of the athletic-type from my teen years, I always had good to excellent muscle tone and form.

    After 2 weeks on statins, I couldn't go up my stairs without severe leg pain, especially my thigh muscles, which would ache so terribly, I would have to sit on the top step and massage my thighs for at least 5 minutes. Suspicious, I read thru the printed material and found the precise symptoms I'd experienced.

    For experimental purposes, I stopped the statins. In 2 days, the side effect was GONE. For the past 4 years, I have taken a nightly dose of Red Yeast Rice (a natural substance) numbers have never been better. The statins are only one Rx I have eliminated and successfully replaced with holistic replacements. With in depth research, common sense and CAN be done. UP++++

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, FlourishAnyway!

    You make a good point. There are plenty of over-the-counter remedies and nutritional supplements which are not tested, nor do they contain any warning statements. The only thing the label is likely to say is wording to the effect of, "Not tested or evaluated by the FDA."

    I'm sorry to hear your mom and aunt had problems with these medications as well. These side effects are indeed subtle, and can sneak up on you after time.

    Many thanks for your input; I'm glad you liked the article.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

    Thanks for sharing your story. I am sorry this happened to your husband. Interestingly, the over-the-counter supplement red yeast rice contains the same basic properties that prescription statins do without all the prescription fine print, so people can also run into problems that way. Both my aunt and mother suddenly experience issues with statins after successfully being on them for years. Good hub!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, PegCole17,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I'm glad you were able to reduce your cholesterol naturally. Those drugs are scary. I hope your husband fares better with his course of these drugs.

    Thanks for commenting--I'm glad you found the article useful.

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

    Very important information here. Thank you for sharing your story and for letting others know the potential dangers in taking statins. When I read over the pages of possible side effects that come with prescription medications, I'm often tempted not to take them. When my doctor prescribed Crestor for me I never took it, deciding instead to try and lower my cholesterol through my diet. It has dropped a few points, and thankfully, it wasn't that far above the range for "normal". Sorry to hear about your hubby's reaction and I hope that his memory has returned. My hubby has been on cholesterol lowering meds for years and the statistics are frightening.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Vickiw,

    Thanks very much for adding that information about the book. I'll look into it, for sure, and probably recommend it to all the doctors I come across... LOL. I'm pleased you liked my article. Sadly, this piece was inspired by my husband's issues with these medications.

  • profile image

    Vickiw 4 years ago

    I read a book recently, by Dr Stephen Sinatra, called 'the great cholesterol myth.' He is a cardiologist, and totally does not recommend statins. I downloaded it from amazon. It is well worthwhile reading, and totally changed my perspective on this topic. Very interesting and informative facts you have here !

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, jmwe29,

    It is very scary, indeed. I'm so sorry to hear about your mother; that is truly tragic. I appreciate you sharing your story, and I will check out your link as well.

    Thanks very much for linking to my article. It is important to educate people, and more so to wake them up to learn to educate themselves instead of regarding doctors as near gods.

  • profile image

    jmwe29 4 years ago

    Scary, isn't it? I put up my own page at squidoo on our experiences with one of these statin drugs and how it has affected our mother - The whole thing has just made us sick- she now has about half her memory function and is wheelchair bound because of this stuff. Thank you for doing your part in educating the public to the dangers. I will put a link in to your page here.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, Minnetonka Twin,

    It is a terrible dilemma, is it not? I feel for you, and I hope your doctors will work with you to find different treatment options. In my husband's case, he made them put all 'statins' on his allergy alert list, so they won't give him any more of them. It was a scary trip down memory-loss lane.

    You are welcome to vent...thanks for your contribution of your experience; it helps everyone be better informed about what these legalized drug-pushers are doing to us.

  • Minnetonka Twin profile image

    Linda Rogers 4 years ago from Minnesota

    Lizzy-I am the same way when it comes to seeing those commercials for drugs and most of it is telling you how dangerous they are. At our house we all laugh and say, "oh, I want to get on that drug." Not! I am so glad I saw your hub because I was put on a statin in 09 because of high cholesterol. I was first put on simvastatin but recently switched to pravastatin because I told her I was having bad side effects. This is what they were and still are: My body gets sore after going to bed after about a half hour-When I say sore, It is so bothersome that I have to keep turning from my side to my back. I tell my family I flop like a crappy all night long and I'm losing sleep because of it. I also have memory issues but part of this could be due to menopause as I'm almost 50. I told my doctor about all of this and she switched me from simva to pravastatin because she told me other patients found it better regarding the muscle aches. I see no difference since the switch. I am on supplements and walk daily and wish this would be enough. I did find out that my last blood check, my cholesterol looks great and that was when I was on Simva and since then she upped my dosage and like I said, put me on pravastatin. I really want to get off these darn things. Thanks for letting me vent my friend :-)

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, frogyfish,

    I am so sorry to learn that your husband is also a victim of these poisons, for that is what they truly are.

    You must be very pro-active in your health care, and it is sometimes necessary to get almost nasty with the doctor, and remind him that he is supposed to be your PARTNER in your health care, and not a dictator. It IS a "work-for-hire" situation--you have hired the doctor to assist you with your healthcare. You do NOT work for the doctor, the doctor works for YOU! Sometimes, they need to be reminded of that fact. Never be afraid to ask for a second opinion, or for a transfer to a different physician.

    By all means, you may link this hub; thanks for asking. I wish you all the best.

  • frogyfish profile image

    frogyfish 4 years ago from Central United States of America

    Thank you for this informative hub and your personal experience. My spouse too has achieved significant memory loss from Lipitor but he 'needs' the pill more than he needs health. He also is greatly fatigued and still he and his doctor refuse to listen to my request to take him off of it. He does take CoQ10 at my insistence, but that doesn't make a 'seeable' difference at this point. Again, thanks for this truth...I would like to link this hub to one I have written about statins if you wouldn't mind.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, BlissfulWriter,

    It's true--many of the side-effects are not even listed on those long lists of "possible side effects." Something is very wrong with this picture. The ability to research on our own via the Internet is a very important tool in educating ourselves to be in charge of our own health. You raise good points, and I thank you for your well-thought-out comment.

  • BlissfulWriter profile image

    BlissfulWriter 4 years ago

    I have read many article of negative side effect of statins. Granted statins may be necessary for some. But one has to know of their possible dangers as well. Statins can damage muscle and cause cholesterol to be too low resulting in depression. Just Google "statin muscle", "statin depression". Anyone taking statins should also consider supplementing with CoEnzyme Q10, because they decrease Co-Q10 levels which is a very important nutrient for the mitochrondria.

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