If you take a statin or have been recommended to take a statin by your doctor, you likely have questions about whether taking a statin is really a good idea for you or not.
Statins are among the most prescribed, and controversial medications prescribed. Put statins into your favorite search engine, and you are as likely to get as many negative articles about statins as positive ones.
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As a preventive cardiologist, I understand the challenges of deciding if statins are a good idea for you or not when there is so much conflicting information and opinions. Nobody wants to take a medication they don’t need, and certainly don’t want to take one that causes side effects. On the other hand, you also don’t want to miss an opportunity to prevent heart disease, stroke, and even early death.
To help you make the right decision for you with your doctor, here are the three most common myths about statin medications.
Myth #1 Statins don’t work.
The truth is that statins are among the most studied medicines in medical history, and in almost all of those studies, people who take a statin have fewer heart attacks, strokes, and death than those who take the placebo. The evidence is overwhelming that individuals at high risk for heart disease benefit from taking a statin medication. For knowledgeable people who don’t have a bias or agenda, the controversy about statins today is not “Do they work for those at high risk of heart disease?”, the controversy is how do we define high risk?
Myth # 2 The risks of statins outweigh the benefits.
Just about every decision we make is one of balancing the risk with the benefits. Even something as routine as driving to the grocery store has risk, but we usually decide the benefits of getting food outweigh the small risk of driving.
The decision about whether to take a statin is no different. There are risks to statins, although in my experience, the concerns about the risk are greater than the actual risk. I’ve taken care of thousands of patients taking statin medications. Of all the medicines we prescribe, I can’t think of one that has as much benefit for as little risk as statin medications in most people.
Myth #3 Statins are likely to damage your liver.
Although most people are concerned about statins affecting their liver, the truth is liver problems are exceedingly rare from statin medications. In more than 20 years and thousands of patients, I’ve only seen a handful of patients with liver issues on statins, and most of those were because of interactions with other drugs. Liver issues are so rare that the FDA recommended several years ago that doctors not routinely check liver tests anymore for patients on statins.
Myth #4 Statins cause memory loss.
The research data does not support the idea that statins cause cognitive issues. In fact, they lower dementia rates, likely because they lower stroke rates.
While there is always more to learn, we know a lot about statins. They have been around for over 30 years, with millions of people taking them. And we know there are some people, probably about 10%, who can’t take a statin due to side effects which are almost always muscle pain or weakness. Despite this, there is a lot of misinformation out there about the risks and benefits of statins. Be careful about the motivations of anyone giving advice about statins. My goal is not to tell you what to do, but to provide you with useful information so you can make the best decision for yourself.
And as always, I recommend that you talk to your doctor to determine the best treatment for you.
Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice. Don’t make any decisions about your medical treatment without first talking to your doctor.