DR. C’S MEDICINE CABINET: BENEFITS & RISKS OF ‘STATINS’

The STATIN medications are one of medicine’s greatest achievements, in my opinion. They REDUCE blood CHOLESTEROL and HEART ATTACKS in very low doses and have a good safety profile. They truly deserve to be the Best Selling class of drugs. 13 Nobel prizes have been awarded during the centuries of cholesterol research.

I have never had a heart attack, but do have some calcification in my Coronaries. Moreover, I have an untreated serum cholesterol level of 220 mg/dL. This is above the recommended level of 200 mg/dL, so I read up on the statins. The only concerning side effect from my viewpoint was MUSCLE PAIN.

I already have some muscle soreness from my exercise program, and did not want more, so I started at ½ of the 5 mg. dose of the statin suggested by my family doctor. This tiny dose of Rosuvastatin produced a dramatic 40 mg. Drop in my Cholesterol, and I am still hovering around the recommended level of 200 mg./dL. Instead of breaking the 5 mg. tablet in half, I now take 5 mg. every other day, since Rosuvastatin has a long half life.

One of my friends took a higher dose, and drove his cholesterol down to 100 Mg./dL. Apparently there is no serum level of cholesterol where further reduction fails to help.

Total cholesterol is divided into HDL and LDL components. My HDL, the “good” cholesterol, is thought to offset some of the cholesterol-plaque-causing effects of the LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. This makes me less than eager to raise my cholesterol and risk muscle pain.

My HIGH HDL is probably due to a combination of EXERCISE, FISH OIL and Genetics. Many of my friends “don’t tolerate” the statins, meaning that they developed muscle pain. Since they were taking the drug on faith, and not because of already-developed heart problems, they just don’t take the medication any more.

If your doctor has recommended one of the Statin drugs because of an elevated cholesterol, you might ask her to start at a lower dose. You can always work up to a higher dose if necessary. If you develop muscle pain at the higher dose, you can drop back to the dose you tolerated. Enjoy “Personalized” Medicine.

–Dr. C.

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