What are statins, what are they for, side effects and risks

The statins They are known in pharmacology as a group of drugs used to lower cholesterol, in those patients who have high cholesterol levels, a condition that is medically known as hypercholesterolemia. These patients present a greater risk of developing the deposit and infiltration of fats in the arteries (atherosclerosis) and of suffering an episode of cardiovascular disease.

Therefore, its clinical use is recommended in case of high cholesterol levels and as a cardiovascular prevention (in case of coronary or cardiovascular events).

However, recently many specialists question the benefits of statins for the prevention of heart disease, especially for the side effects or adverse that present short and long term.

What are statins? What are they for?

Precisely in a previous note we dealt with the possible risks of cholesterol medications, drugs that as a main element contain statins.

We must bear in mind that this type of anti-cholesterol drugs tend to be prescribed when there is any of the following circumstances:

  • When the cholesterol figures are very high.
  • There is a familial hypercholesterolemia.
  • When the figures above normal do not go down even if you follow a healthy lifestyle.

Of course, it must always be the doctor who prescribes the consumption or not of these medications, given that a prior medical prescription is required to be able to take them and acquire them at the pharmacy.

Statins are elements found in certain anti-cholesterol drugs, used precisely from a medical and pharmacological point of view to lower the levels of high cholesterol.

We must take into consideration that our body needs cholesterol to function properly. But when this cholesterol is too much it tends to stick to the walls of the arteries.

Therefore, statins help in the reduction of cholesterol because they interfere with the production of cholesterol in the liver, being able to even lower levels of cholesterol. LDL cholesterol and increase the HDL cholesterol.

Adverse effects of the use of drugs with statins

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned last year about the different side effects that can cause the use of drugs with statins, because although their effects are "indisputable", should be taken with care.

The majority of scientific studies that have been carried out with the aim of analyzing and verifying what the side effects are, have allowed us to know some of its adverse effects:

  • They can increase the risk of blood sugar levels (Type 2 diabetes).
  • Loss of memory, forgetfulness and confusion.
  • They increase the risk of muscle damage.
  • In the long term, it can cause osteoarthritis and increase pain (chest pain, back pain).
  • Liver damage, although rare.
  • Constipation, flatulence, dyspepsia, nausea and diarrhea.
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Skin rash and pruritus.
  • Myalgias and arthralgia.
  • Allergic reactions.

For this reason, the FDA informed that it will indicate on the labels of statin drugs that, among their adverse or secondary effects, they can cause memory loss or raise blood sugar levels, among others.

Contraindications of statins

Although statins are safe for most people, they are not recommended in the following cases:

  • Pregnant women.
  • People with liver diseases.
  • They may interact negatively with other medications.

In addition, as indicated in a previous note, researchers are currently studying not only the use of statins for the treatment of other disorders, but it has been found that the follow-up of an intensive treatment higher than 80 mg. per day may increase the risk of metabolic disease, such as diabetes.

They question the benefits of statins for the prevention of heart disease

Recent studies are putting in July the use of statins as preventive medicine against diseases of the heart.

In these precise moments the American medical community is debating the pros and cons of the use of statins as preventive of heart disease, especially when this use is not indicated, and especially if we take into account some of its main side effects: regular consumption seems to be associated with an increase in rheumatic diseases, especially in physically active individuals, in addition to the risk of type 2 diabetes, short-term kidney damage and reversible long-term muscle damage.

On the other hand, medical experts tend to be clear about their medical qualities in prevention, especially for those who have already suffered a cardiovascular accident. However, in the case of a patient who has not yet had a heart attack, or a stroke, if prescribed the consumption of a daily drug with statins for five years could only reduce the risk by 1%. Therefore, would his prescription really be justified in low-risk patients, if we take into account some of its side effects?

At least in the United States and Canada there is a custom on the part of most physicians to prescribe statin drugs as primary prevention, even if such patients do not have already established heart disease.

The risks of medications to lower cholesterol

As we have already mentioned, when cholesterol levels are very high, there is a familial hypercholesterolemia, or the figures above normal do not go down even if a healthy lifestyle is followed, it is common for the doctor to prescribe certain medicines for cholesterol.

These medications contain statins, which help to keep blood cholesterol levels under control, being useful in turn to reduce the risk of suffering cardiovascular problems in the future.

Although recent studies have shown that an intensive therapy with these drugs (high doses of 80 mg per day) could increase the risk of developing metabolic disease, such as diabetes.

The specialists are investigating the possible consequences or risks of following a treatment against cholesterol from high doses of statins, especially if we take into account that a conventional treatment does not exceed 20 mg. newspapers.

More information | MedlinePlus / WikiPedia This article is published for informational purposes only. It can not and should not replace the consultation with a Physician. We advise you to consult your Trusted Doctor.

The Side Effects of Statins (May 2020)