Cholesterol and Statin Intolerance
- Posted by Lele M
- On 03/12/2018
What are statins?
Statins are a group of medicines used for the treatment of high cholesterol, which is a major cause of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) diseases like heart attacks (myocardial infarction), angina and stroke.
Cholesterol is a waxy type of fat which is produced in the liver. It is an essential component of cells and hormones, but in excess it can lead to blockage of the arteries, leading to disease in vital organs like the heart or brain.
While we get some cholesterol from food, most of it is produced in the liver. Dietary changes, such as eating less dairy and animal fat, can help lower cholesterol naturally, but most people who have heart disease need to take medication to lower it enough to reduce, reverse or prevent these blockages. The most common type of medicine for this are called statins, although some other less effective drugs are available, such as bezafibrate and ezetimibe.
What is statin intolerance?
Some people find that when they take statin medication, such as simvastatin or atorvastatin, they experience unpleasant side-effects, such as muscle aches, tenderness or weakness, headache, nausea or bowel upset. While these will often settle as the body gets used to the medicine, sometimes they do not, and this might prevent the person from taking them long-term. Statins can also cause a range of less common but more serious side-effects such as liver damage. They also have a reputation for affecting memory, but trials have shown that this is actually very uncommon.
While statins are known to be the best treatment currently available to lower cholesterol, and thereby prevent heart disease, research is ongoing to find new alternative treatments for those who cannot take them.