Are statins doing you more harm than good?

How statins work, unexpected side effects and what you can do to avoid needing to take them

S.A.C. Dip (Diet, Exercise & Fitness), Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology Level 3
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30 November 2019

What are statins?

Statins are a group of cholesterol-lowering drugs that are a preventative form of medication that are often prescribed to those who have heart disease or high cholesterol levels. The body needs cholesterol in order to function properly however, too much cholesterol leads to atherosclerosis, or a narrowing of the blood arteries caused by cholesterol containing plaque. Statins delay the narrowing of arteries and reduce the risk of having a serious health problem such as a heart attack or stroke. They can also help to delay and prevent cardiovascular symptoms from getting worse.

Are they good for us?

Evidence suggests that statins could actually make your heart health worse : 

Statins deplete your body of CoQ10

CoQ10 is used for energy production by every cell in your body and is important for maintaining high energy levels and overall good quality of life. Statins can also cause muscular pain, inflammation and tenderness and, the higher the dosage of statins, the more likely a person is to experience such pains. One study found that increasing the intake of CoQ10 can help reduce mild-to-moderate muscular pain symptoms caused by statins. 

Inhibits the functioning of vitamin K2

Statins can disrupt your synthesis of vitamin K2, which is responsible for protecting your arteries from calcification. Vitamin K2 helps to move calcium  to the areas of your body that needs it, such as your bones and teeth, and also plays a role in removing calcium from areas where it shouldn’t be like the arteries and soft tissues. Statins can limit the proper functioning of vitamin K2 in the body which can lead to vitamin K2 deficiency which is known to contribute to a number of diseases including osteoporosis, heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Reduces the production of ketone bodies

Ketone is an important nutrient produced by the liver that helps to feed your mitochondria and even helps to regulate ageing. Statins work by inhibiting the enzyme in your liver that produces cholesterol but, unfortunately this enzyme is also responsible for the production of CoQ10 and ketones.

Unfortunately, reduced production of ketone and vitamin K2 can increase your risk factors for a range of other serious cardiovascular diseases.

What to do if you’re on statins

Get support from qualified healthcare professionals at every step

Now, if you already take statins and have been prescribed them by a doctor then we absolutely recommend that you continue to take them as your doctor has instructed. If you are worried about the effects of statins or if you want to stop taking them, it’s extremely important that you consult with your doctor or a qualified health care professional on this matter. They will be able to provide you with more information as well as the best (and safest) course of action to take.

Consider a vitamin K2 and CoQ10 supplement

As I have mentioned above, statins can interfere with both vitamin K2 and the enzyme CoQ10. To prevent deficiency and an increased risk of developing other diseases as a result, I would consider supplementing them. You can get further advice on what's available by visiting your local health food store. 

Use your diet to take more control over your cholesterol

While statins have definitely shown they can lower your cholesterol levels, dietary and lifestyle factors also play an essential role. Omega-3 fatty acids have been clinically proven to help reduce risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure levels.  Unfortunately, omega-3 fatty acids can’t be produced by the human body so we have to get them through our diet. Food sources rich in the substance include: walnuts, fish oils, chia seeds and flaxseeds. 

Sugar is thought to be a large factor in developing high cholesterol levels so coming off it entirely or limiting your intake could be beneficial in supporting healthy cholesterol levels. Research has found that sugar raises several risk factors and triggers the inflammation that causes cardiovascular disease and high blood cholesterol.  

Exercise regularly

We all know that exercising is good for your circulation and heart health, but it also works in other ways to be beneficial for reducing your cholesterol levels. Researchers believe that exercise helps to move bad cholesterol from the blood to the liver. From there it is converted into bile for digestion and expelled. 

What’s more, exercise also increases the size of protein particles that carry cholesterol through the blood. This may not sound like good news but actually, larger density particles are safer than smaller ones as these smaller ones can make their way into the lining of the heart and blood vessels. 

If you want to start exercising but aren’t really sure where to start I’d suggest investigating our Get Active Hub which contains lots of handy tips and information on how to keep fit. Don’t think you have the time? Why not check out our blog for some easy ways to stay fit when you’re super busy?

Support your circulation

Having healthy circulation is key to preventing and reducing cardiovascular diseases. Good circulation means more oxygen can get through the body which not only increases your energy levels, but can also help to prevent and slow damage of high cholesterol levels. It is also vital for carrying away any waste products. There are a number of easy and natural ways that you can boost your blood circulation, click here to find out more about them.

Originally written 26th Feb 2018, updated 30th Nov 2019.

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