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British Heart Foundation
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Cholesterol or not to Cholesterol

The doctor at hospital told me he thought I’d had a silent heart attack because my archery’s had narrowed, and asked if I had high cholesterol?

I said I don’t know I’ve never had it checked. He then prescribed me a cholesterol tablet.

I saw the heart failure nurse and asked about getting my cholesterol checked. He said you could try Boots.

I asked the nurses at the surgery if they would add a cholesterol check with the kidney and liver checks. A couple of them said ok while others said no I’d have to ask the doctor. I was having quite a few blood tests while optimising the medication.

The cholesterol results came back as 3.5. The test wasn’t a fasting test and I was taking 40mg simvastatin.

A couple of years ago cholesterol was big headlines, it was on tv, the surgeries practically dragged you in off the streets to give you a cholesterol check. It then went through a phase of bad press with some doctors questioning its value.

I eat quite a healthy diet, but I also eat things that are not so healthy like sugar and high fat food with the odd beer. If I was to change my diet to a healthy one or even a very unhealthy one, would my cholesterol stay at 3.5? Does the cholesterol tablet remove all the unhealthy cholesterol?

I have suffered some side effects in the past 3 years, toilet problems, aching joints and I’ve long suspected the cholesterol tablet to be a lead culprit. The side effects are getting more annoying, so I’m going to stop the cholesterol tablet to see if it eases the problem. I’ve stopped it in the past but only for a short time so this time I’m going to give it a couple of months, make sure it’s out of the body.

I know people who have high cholesterol and refuse to take the tablet because of the side effects while I know others who persevere with side effects.

It’s the policy of the NHS to prescribe a cholesterol tablet to heart patients, according to the heart failure nurse. But heart patients are already on quite a lot of medication, so is it necessary to take a cholesterol tablet even when you don’t have high cholesterol?

I’m pretty certain that I don’t naturally have high cholesterol. So is it worth the side effects?

What’s your opinion on cholesterol tablets?

9 Replies

Hi there,

Were you taking the stain at the time you had the cholesterol test? If so that would have lowered the reading, I assume the 3.5 is total. The statin isn't going to stop cholesterol with a high intake of fatty foods, it will to a certain extent, but if you are eating a cheeseburger with cheese sauce followed by spare ribs (sorry just picking fats at random) then they wont help at all.

Are you taking any other drugs for your heart?

I don't think people on here are qualified answering your question as to stopping the statin, maybe the BHF volunteer nurses are but, even so, they wouldn't recommend stopping any treatment without consulting either your cardiologist or GP. I feel your angst on the side effects as I suffer them too and my dosage is double yours

good luck



Have a look at Dr Malcolm Kendrick's book. Here's a link drmalcolmkendrick.org/books...



Hi Howard, I have been taking 2 tablets together for my high cholesterol but to have a correct test you need to fast for 8 hrs and they need to break it down between the HDL good stuff to LDL bad stuff, so the overall figure is pointless without knowing that, as I found out, as to muscle pain etc you can try different types and find the one that suits, mine is Crestor. good luck.



I had problems with statins causing severe aches and pains in my muscles. I tried various ones but still debilitating side effects I then got an alternative one called Ezetrol/Ezetimbe. It has lowered my cholesterol and I finally have no side effects from this one.

It is always about finding the right one for you as an individual there are usually alternatives so discuss it with your Dr.

Good luck



O was prescribed statins despite a cholesterol level of 4.2. With simvastatin it dropped to around 2.5 but the muscle aches were such that I refused to take it. No such issues with atorvastatin but my cholesterol is 3.3. So chat with your GP about changing statins. My arterial narrowing is not due to raised cholesterol but genetic. Another less published effect of stains it to stabilise the plaque reducing the chance of some breaking away which could have serious consequences!


Howard, an interesting story. My opinion on cholesterol tablets has changed over the years. I was first diagnosed in 2003 with ‘minor’ heart disease was prescribed statins and modified my diet as recommended. I did have some muscle cramps and changed from Simvastatin to atrovastatin to Rosuvastatin but was very happy to take them thinking this would help manage my condition. However, 10 years later I had to have a bypass, the surgeon said I had the widowmaker, my atherosclerosis was now 70% and in the critical LMS/LAD. Since my bypass I have changed my diet considerably to no dairy, and apart from occasional lean chicken, no meat, it is essentially a WFPB diet but with fish, so more classic Mediterranean. I have now given up statins but get my blood checked regularly every 6 months, I pay once a year for a private comprehensive blood test. I believe all my markers are good and I also feel good not on statins. No muscle cramps or fatigue which I think I had while on statins.


I was born with a heart condition and on satins. I have low blood pressure but should have high, it’s onli Low cos my heart is recovering from a op and got high cholesterol.


Howard, I was told I had a mild attack and put on 80mg of atorvastin without having a blood test, I thought this was a very high dose so I only took 40mgs for 3weeks which caused really bad muscle pains in my arms my doctor changed it over to pravastatin 20mg and so far no side effects, you can always ask your doctor to change you over to a different statin and see if you get less side effects.


Thanks for all the replies.

I will probably start taking the statins again, but I will stay off them a little longer to see what happens to any side effects.

The thing is I take other heart medication and I have a good idea of what they do and why I take them. With the cholesterol medication it seems the experts aren’t really sure what they do.


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