Video updated 3/5/2012 to reflect new FDA warning labels citing risks of confusion, memory loss, new onset diabetes and muscle injury. Even people who don’t experience pain or weakness on cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may be suffering muscle damage.
Image thanks to The Scripps Research Institute.
Who needs lettuce/lentils/legumes, though, when we have Lipitor. This was actually a bad year for statins—the cholesterol-lowering drugs. We’ve known about their potential to damage the liver; that’s why you have to get regular blood tests to check your liver function. But there’s some new data this year on their muscle toxicity.
We’ve known that about 1-5% of patients suffer enough muscle damage to cause pain and overt weakness, but only about one in 6 or 7 million actually suffers enough muscle damage to kill them. It’s called fatal rhabdomyolysis, where your muscles break down so rapidly your urine starts looking like this as you literally start peeing your muscles down the toilet, then your kidneys fail and you die. But that’s like winning-the-lottery chances. There’s a 1 in 2 chance we’ll die of heart disease, so no surprise this is the #1 prescribed drug in the world.
But then this study was published last year. Normally if you have muscle pain on a statin, you go to your doctor and they take blood and see if you have elevated levels of muscle breakdown products in your bloodstream. If you don’t, they basically say it’s all in your head, go home and keep taking your medicine. What these researchers did, though, was they instead took these people and got muscle biopsies and proved, that even though their blood levels were normal they were indeed suffering muscle damage. The damage just wasn’t leaking into the blood stream. Well if that’s the case; if you can’t pick it up with the test, maybe everyone taking statins is suffering muscle damage whether they’re experiencing pain or not.
And that’s exactly what’s been found. Clear evidence of muscle damage in statin-treated patients. This is what your muscle is supposed to look like under a microscope. This is your muscle; this is your muscle on a statin drug.
Still, the degree of overall damage was slight. Most people don’t even feel any pain with statins, so what’s the big deal? This is the big deal. New study on statins, muscle function, and fall risk. Hundreds of older men and women followed for a few years and those who were on statins suffered greater declines in muscle strength and performance, and an increased risk of falls.
So we don’t want to be taking this drug unless we really need it. The problem is, because heart disease remains our #1 killer, most everyone does need it—except for one group. It’s our choice…
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.
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Be sure to check out my associated blog posts for more context: Soymilk: shake it up!, Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk, Cholesterol Lowering in a Nut Shell, Generic Lipitor is not the answer to our heart disease epidemic, What is the best way to get vitamin B12?, and Vitamin B12: how much, how often?
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