Statins: How the drug prevents heart attacks and strokes
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Statins have been proven to effectively reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. As the most widely used medicine to lower cholesterol, statins have been around for more than 30 years with plenty of research into side effects during that time. While statins can affect everyone differently, these are the most common symptoms to look out for.
Statins are some of the most widely prescribed medications across the globe for people with concerning levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
More commonly known as ‘bad cholesterol’, LDL can build up around the arteries and trigger anything from a heart attack to a stroke by restricting the blood flow around the body.
According to the medical website, Healthline, most people who take statins have no noticeable adverse side effects.
Though side effects can occur, it is important to know the difference between common symptoms of statin use, and the more rare issues that could be a sign of a more serious problem.
What is the most common side effect of statins?
There are five types of statins approved for use in the UK, all of which have been linked to some combination of these common side effects.
The NHS have identified the most reported side effects to be:
- Feeling sick
- Tiredness and weakness
- Digestive issues – constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion and wind
- Muscle pain
- Sleep problems
- Low blood platelet count
Experiencing these symptoms while taking statins is most likely to happen just after starting your medication course, as the body gets used to its presence in the body over time.
Side effects of different types of statins
With five different types of statin being used across the UK, side effects can become more and less common across each separate drug.
Common side effects of simvastatin
Simvastatin is used to treat high cholesterol and regulate fat levels in the blood.
It has been linked to dizziness and a fast or irregular heartbeat.
According to Healthline, simvastatin may be more likely to cause muscle pain when taken in high doses, compared to other statins.
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Common side effects of pravastatin
Unlike simvastatin, pravastatin has been linked to fewer muscle aches and other side effects compared with other variations of statins.
It is generally well tolerated when used on a long term basis, though it has been shown to trigger muscle stiffness and painful joints in some people.
Common side effects of atorvastatin
Atorvastatin has been most commonly linked to headaches and cold or flu-like symptoms.
If you are taking atorvastatin and experience consistent flu-like symptoms, contact your doctor to rule out the risk of hepatitis (inflammation of the liver).
Fluvastatin side effects
Fluvastatin is used as an alternative drug for people who have had muscle pain when taking stronger statins – though side effects are still common and can include:
- Joint pain
- Trouble sleeping and tiredness
According to Healthline, infection symptoms are also commonly linked to fluvastatin and can cause anything from chills, fever and runny nose to a sore throat and sweating.
Rosuvastatin side effects
This type of statin has the highest number of reported side effects, though Healthline claimed that taking a lower dose may reduce or eliminate uncomfortable symptoms which can include:
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain and stiffness
- Skin rash
Uncommon side effects of statin use
Less common symptoms like memory issues and sexual problems have been linked to statin use in some cases.
Though these symptoms are less common, they can generally feel more pressing than a headache or muscle pain.
It is important to seek medical advice if you feel overwhelmed by any of the following side effects reported by the NHS:
- Being sick
- Memory problems
- Hair loss
- Pins and needles
- Inflammation of the liver (hepatitis)
- Flu-like symptoms – could indicate hepatitis
- Stomach pain – could be a sign of pancreatitis
- Skin problems – acne, itchy red rash
- Sexual issues – loss of libido or erectile dysfunction
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