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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Statins Don't Prevent Heart Attacks

Statin medications like Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), and Crestor (rosuvastatin) are prescribed to prevent heart attacks and stroke. But studies show that they aren't very effective.

The well-respected Cochrane Collaboration, an international, independent, not-for-profit research organization, recently reviewed 14 randomized, controlled trials (the gold standard in research studies) involving over 34,000 participants. The researchers found "little evidence" that statin medications prevent first-time heart attacks or improve quality of life. They concluded that for people at low risk of cardiovascular disease, potential adverse effects "are poorly reported and unclear."

Even worse, researchers uncovered unreliable and ethically questionable research methods including "selective reporting of outcomes, failure to report adverse events and inclusion of people with cardiovascular disease" in studies meant to exclude such people.

According to the Cochrane analysis, in people with a history of heart disease or type two diabetes, taking statin medications lowered their risk of cardiovascular complications by about 1 percent.

If you've already had a heart attack or stroke, you should weigh the benefits and risks of statins very carefully with your doctor.

Approximately 10 to 15 percent of people who take statin drugs experience adverse effects. These can include muscle aches, cramps, weakness, muscle damage, tissue degeneration, sexual problems, the inability to tolerate exercise, and damage to the liver, nerves, and mitochondria. Significant injury to cells, muscles, and nerves can even happen without any symptoms.

If you've never had a heart attack or stroke, the benefits of taking statin drugs - which is only 0.4 percent according to the Cochrane analysis - probably doesn't outweigh the risks. Instead, reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular disease by:

  • Eating lots of colorful fruits and vegetables like berries and leafy greens
  • Avoiding sweet and starchy foods
  • Exercising regularly
  • Sleeping soundly
  • Managing stress

If you have type two diabetes, consider making these lifestyle changes before you consider taking a statin medication. The same dietary changes and lifestyle habits that reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease also help improve blood sugar control. Following the recommendations above will likely benefit you much more than any statin medication.


Mullington JM et al. Cardiovascular, inflammatory, and metabolic consequences of sleep deprivation. Progress in Cardiovascular Disease. 2009 Jan-Feb; 51(4):294-302.

Sirvent P et al. New insights into mechanisms of statin-associated myotoxicity. Current Opinions in Pharmacology. 2008 Jun; 8(3):333-8. Epub 2008 Feb 1.

Taylor F et al. Statins for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2011 Jan 19; (1):CD004816.

Tsivgoulis G et al. Presymptomatic neuromuscular disorders disclosed following statin treatment. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2006 Jul 24; 166(14):1519-24.


Jenn said...

Fantastic article - great summary.

Unknown said...

This article, it was really informative. I’ll be looking forward for your next..
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