Article Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Statins


Apr. 16, 2018 New York Times

Are you among the 73 million Americans with cholesterol levels that current guidelines suggest should be lowered by taking a statin for the sake of your cardiovascular well-being? Have you and your doctor discussed the pros and cons of statin therapy and whether it is appropriate for your circumstances?

If not, now is the time to do so. Too often, patients are given a prescription with little or no discussion of what the drug can mean for their health, and that affects their willingness to take it or stay on it.

Dr. Seth Martin, a preventive cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, strongly recommends that taking a statin be a fact-based, collaborative and personalized decision between doctor and patient, following one or more discussions of the individual’s medical and personal concerns.

Maybe you’ve already been prescribed a statin and are among the 45 percent of such patients who never took the medication or who abandoned it within six months, perhaps because you’ve heard scary stories about possible side effects.

If so, I’m not surprised. Bad news about drugs travels fast, and reports of side effects are often exaggerated and rarely presented in a way that is meaningful to those who might be affected. (The same is true for a drug’s benefits, which are often described with statistics that mean little to the average person.) Misinformation, or misinterpretation of factual information, can result in what doctors call the “nocebo” effect — the experience of an anticipated side effect even when the patient is given a dummy pill.

A personal example: After being on a statin for nearly two decades to lower a genetically influenced high cholesterol level, I recently decided to take a drug holiday after reading about how the medication can affect muscle metabolism and sometimes cause muscle pain and damage.

Was the statin, I wondered, and not my age, the reason I was finding it harder to cycle, walk and swim? Could this otherwise valuable medication contribute to my back pain?

“A person’s expectation of the effects of statins can result in the experience of symptoms and relating those symptoms to the drug,” Dr. Martin explained. Thus, I may feel better without the statin even if the drug is not responsible for my symptoms. Regardless of the outcome, I expect to return to the statin lest I succumb to a “premature” heart attack, as my father and grandfather did.

As an international team of researchers pointed out in The Lancet in 2016, “exaggerated claims about side-effect rates with statin therapy may be responsible for its underuse among individuals at increased risk of cardiovascular events. For, whereas the rare cases of myopathy and any muscle-related symptoms that are attributed to statin therapy generally resolve rapidly when treatment is stopped, the heart attacks or strokes that may occur if statin therapy is stopped unnecessarily can be devastating.”

Read More on New York Times

Gene Upshaw Player Assistance Trust Fund

Apply Today

All Resources

Tell Me More

Is Snoring Dangerous? Here's When to Worry

Sleep apnea increases your cardiovascular risks significantly.

Read More

Giving up alcohol for just 1 month has lasting benefits

Whether it’s for Dry January or just because, a month with no alcohol an alter your life.

Read More

How does yo-yo dieting affect our heart health?

The best option is to keep the healthy pattern going, but if you slip up, try again.

Read More

The 5 Worst Health and Fitness New Year's Resolutions You Can Make

It may seem counterintuitive, but starting on January 1st is not the best idea for a New Year’s resolution.

Read More

The Next Generation of You: Scott Gragg

In our latest installment, a former NFL player’s journey through coaching and academics brings him close to home to find success as an assistant principal and athletic director.

Read More

Six Attitudes Parents Should Instill in Their Young Athletes

The right attitudes will set children up for success and happiness.

Read More

30 Characteristics of Happy Couples

Listen, learn and work with your partner.

Read More

When Is the Earliest You Can File Your Tax Return in 2019?

A government shutdown shouldn’t impact your tax plans.

Read More