Statins: How the drug prevents heart attacks and strokes
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Statins are a crucial lifeline for people at risk of heart disease because they can help lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. LDL cholesterol is a waxy substance that collects on the inside of your arteries, raising the risk of a blockage. Although the advantages of taking statins outweigh the disadvantages, they can interact with certain dietary decisions.
According to the NHS, people who regularly drink large amounts of alcohol are at increased risk of getting more serious side effects from statins.
“The doctor will also ask you how much alcohol you drink before prescribing statins,” explains the health body.
“If you’re prescribed a statin, you may be able to continue drinking alcohol.”
UK health guidelines advise not drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week, however.
What are the serious side effects of taking statins?
There have been concerns raised in the past that low-dose alcohol may increase the likelihood that a statin will cause liver inflammation but a study conducted by Harvard Health allays these fears.
The study evaluated the question in 1,244 men who had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery.
The men were randomly assigned to take low or high-dose lovastatin (one of the main types of statin).
Among the 345 men on high doses, there was no effect of alcohol on the risk of liver inflammation, even in the men who averaged more than two drinks a day.
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Although it is not directly associated with alcohol consumption, rhabdomyolysis is arguably the most serious side effect of taking statins.
Rhabdomyolysis is life-threatening muscle damage.
“Rhabdomyolysis can cause severe muscle pain, liver damage, kidney failure and death,” warns the Mayo Clinic.
It is worth noting that the risk of very serious side effects is extremely low, and calculated in a few cases per million people taking statins, notes the health body.
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The rare risk of side effects must also be weighed against the demonstrable benefits of taking statins.
A review of scientific studies into the effectiveness of statins found around one in every 50 people who take the medicine for five years will avoid a serious event, such as a heart attack or stroke, as a result.
Nonetheless, you should discuss the benefits and risks of taking statins with your doctor before you start taking the medicine, advises the NHS.
“If you find certain side effects particularly troublesome, talk to the doctor in charge of your care.”
How to lower high cholesterol without statins
You can lower your cholesterol levels naturally by overhauling aspects of your lifestyle.
If you have high cholesterol, it’s most important to eat less saturated fat.
“Foods that are high in saturated fats are things like fatty and processed meat, pies and pastry, butter, cream, and coconut oil,” says the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
According to the BHF, getting your blood pumping by doing exercise will also reduce your cholesterol.
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