Statins - good or bad?

I am concerned and a little intrigued by the fairly recent body of opinion that has grown up around the issue of whether statins are good or bad - in the latter case, held to be an evil promoted by "big pharma" and the doctors they "bribe" to sell their wares.

I do not know if they are good or bad: I have been on 40mg. Symvastatin for about a year and at first did get some muscle pains - mainly in my upper arms (triceps). Having read that this is largely due to statins lowering levels of Q10 I invested in some 30mg Q10 tablets, which helped. I then stepped up to 100mg and do not seem to have any more pains than I used to have before the statins (I am 69 so obviously get the occasional aches and pains anyway).

As far as them being pushed by the medical profession, this was certainly not so in my case. I was concerned about cholesterol as my maternal grandmother died of a heart attack at 76, but had had angina for years, my mother died of one at 70. I have therefore always been careful with my diet (along the possibly erroneous guidelines about saturated fat etc. that we were given over the past 20 years) and exercise (walk the dog briskly every day) so was concerned my cholesterol level turned out to be a little over 6 with 3 to 1 LDL to HDL. I asked my GP if I should be on statins but he thought not - levels not enough to justify possible side effects.

3 years later I have had a number of problems - clot in the optic nerve, plaque in the carotid artery and now angina following a very unpleasant attack one evening. I am now on statins, aspirin and a betablocker (Cardiocor) prescribed by a cardiologist. I had a year of some discomfort and breathlessness but seem to have gradually and almost imperceptibly improved and am now feeling pretty good and able to walk at my old brisk pace unless it is just after a meal when I have to pace myself for a while. I also find my legs ache a bit if I walk too fast up hills which the GP thinks could be the beta-blockers reducing blood flow rather than muscle aches due to statins; who knows?

So - have statins helped or even saved me? I don't know. Until we know more (will we ever?) I would rather take them than not. I have also seen research which appears to indicate (from memory) about a 33% reduction in heart problems on those taking statins - no doubt someone will have the proper figures.

In the light of the warnings - or scaremongering? - about statins and low cholesterol that are becoming prevalent in these blogs, I would love to see some educated scientific and/or medical input.

16 Replies

  • Me too! My current beef is repeated cramp. Painful attacks in the calf muscles during the night but also when relaxing in the evening reading or tv watching. Should I drink more G&T?

  • Could be worth a try! I rely on red wine.

    I did have really bad cramp in calf one night recently but I have had in the same place about once a year since injuring a calf muscle swimming (about 50 years ago, would you believe).

    Seriously, though, try the Q10 at 100mg. if you are not already doing so. Cheaper on-line -Nature's Best etc. or Amazon for good price and quick delivery.

  • Hi Keithhookey,

    Thanks for your input as well. 3 things spring immediately to mind.

    1. Statins are more effective in people who have already had a CVD "event". Even Dr Kendrick says this " Statins definitely reduce overall mortality in men with existing heart disease" (page 191 The Great Cholesterol Con"). He does go on to qualify this a bit.

    2. Reducing heart attacks by a third sounds fantastic, but is an absolute figure and depends entirely on what your risk was in the first place. When the WOSCOP's trial was followed up 10 years later, the overall total mortality in the statin treated group was 3.2% and the placebo group 4.1%. (Source The Patient Paradox, Margaret McCartney ). She has 23 references in the chapter on cardio vascular risk alone!

    3. There is enough scientific evidence out there to make your head spin (mine does frequently), but I'm not sure whether a blog like this is the place to back up all our statements with references, otherwise it becomes like an academic exercise. The four GP's in my practice vary enormously in their attitude to prescribing statins as well.

    Finally, in my opinion the statin debate is polarised, but when I read a website say by Dr Briffa on one hand and Flora margarine on the other, I know exactly what side of the fence they are on. The real difficulty is negotiating it and deciding what's right for you. I am not a walking collection of risk factors for CVD, I am an individual, to misquote a 60's TV programme.

  • Hi Aliwally

    Many thanks for that; I was, as you know, hoping for a more informed input than many on this blog tend to be and I appreciate your views.

    I shall look up the Margaret McCartney reference if it is available generally (not to subscribers only) but at this stage think I am probably advised to stay on the statins.

    I agree with your comment about having in mind where opinions are "coming from". What I cannot really get a grip on is whether high overall cholesterol is good or bad (some, although I suspect uninformed or at least lay-opinion, suggests high is good, somewhat surprisingly whilst others suggest a good HDL/LDL ratio is fine regardless of overall levels. At the time of my first test at 6.05 the GP commented I was not much higher than the average of 5.7 but I could not help feeling that 'average' is not 'ideal' and average people die of heart disease on a regular basis!

    In my case, I (and the GP) think there is a genetic pre-disposition to above average levels and diet is not going to make a big difference. I did not mention that my mother's brother was diagnosed with angina at 60 although it was controlled (he took diuretics and warfarin) adequately until he died of prostate cancer at 88.

    I do not know if any arterial blockage I might have, or the plaque in my carotid artery, have improved but I like to think they have as, touching wood as I type, I feel so much better.

  • Really glad you feel better and I agree we all have to make our own decisions. Error in 2 above, should read relative not absolute.

    Another point is that there is so much money and profit tied up in this cholesterol business now, foods and supplements to lower it, as well as drugs. I think that muddies the water.

    Keep well and keep blogging, I like to read everybody's opinion, although I might not agree with all of them.

  • Hi keithhookey

    There is certainly a great deal written about cholesterol and statins. If you are looking for information the site PubMed gives you a summary of research findings. Google what you are interested in and add PubMed.

    The following article from the magazine 'New Scientist' gives the background history of cholesterol and statins. It's a long article! The conclusion is that we need alternatives to statins because of the side effects.

    The science and role of cholesterol is complex and still controversial. And whether or not eating fat will raise our levels is also controversial.

    One of the best books I have read that covers the subject is by the American endocrinologist Robert Lustig, who has written about metabolic syndrome in the book 'Fat Chance'. His premise is that too much sugar is killing us.

    "There are two types of LDL: large buoyant type, driven by dietary fat, neutral in terms of heart disease; small dense type, driven by dietary carbohydrate(sugar, in particular) which oxidises quickly driving atherosclerotic plaque formation".

    As Aliwally said, there is an awful lot of money tied up in this, and that includes the sugar industry!

  • Hi Penel

    Thanks for that. I'll do some 'heavy-duty' reading tomorrow!

  • Hi Penel

    Thanks for that. I'll do some 'heavy-duty' reading tomorrow!


    Statins Can Inhibit Muscle Repair FatIsNotYourFault

    Check out these on youtube please

  • Hello,

    Do you have all the cholesterol test numbers?

    Below may help to identify the two types of LDL, from the Internet:

    There are two tests that can tell you which LDL you have more of - gradient gel electrophoresis and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analysis.

    But, there is one more way you can use to easily determine your LDL profile. Normal blood tests should indicate not only the total cholesterol but also the HDL and Triglycerides levels.

    Generally when the triglycerides are high, HDL (good) cholesterol levels are low, and the opposite is valid – low triglycerides – high HDL levels. What’s important is how the triglycerides and the HDL cholesterol are related.

    If you divide the triglycerides number by the HDL number and the resulting number is less than 2 – you have more of the large, buoyant LDL. If this number is 3 and higher – you mostly have small, dense LDL.

    So, if you fall into the second group what do you do? You make dietary changes right away – less carbs and more proteins and fats! And by fats I mean good fats – monounsaturated, omega-3 polyunsaturated (but not Omega-6), and saturated (no, saturated fats aren’t bad for you).

    The other immediate change you need to do is, if you haven’t already, you must start exercising immediately.. like yesterday!

    These two measures will help reverse a bad, inherited and resulting from a bad lifestyle large LDL to small LDL ratio. But.. you MUST do what it takes!

    To wrap up, what you saw above is one of the main reasons why we at Viitals strive to make our baked goods low in total carbohydrates and sugars. This is also why our main fat is olive oil – the healthiest monounsaturated fat, which is shown to decrease LDL and increase HDL cholesterol.

  • Thanks - very interesting. I don't know the detailed results of my tests and will try and find out.

    Will look into your products as well.



  • If you take into account that the WHO are trying to ban statins, it must mean something.

    Yes, they are bad for you, the can cause muscle DNA destruction and damage your liver and kidneys. This, of course, varies from person to person; I suffer with my leg muscles (Glutius Maximus).

  • The problem with any form of statins lies with the recipient, if you are, like me, statin intolerant, then you are in for a lot of pain; at the worst... liver and/or kidney failure.

    Roundabouts and swings phenomenon.

  • I intend to sue, as soon as it is verified medically that I have Statin Myopathy.

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