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Facts and Myths About Statin Therapy

When it comes to high cholesterol, the numbers paint a grim picture in the United States. Approximately 93 million adults ages 20 and older have combined cholesterol numbers over 200 mg/dL, and 12% of this same age group have numbers that reach above 240

Thankfully, more than half of adults (around 43 million) who can benefit from medications are taking it, but what about the other half?

If you have high cholesterol, but you’re worried about taking medications, namely statins, cardiologist Dr. James Kim of James Kim Cardiology and our team thought we’d clear the air when it comes to this potentially life-saving medication.

In the following, we explore some of the myths and facts about statin therapy.

The dangers of high cholesterol

Before we dive into statin therapy, let’s quickly review why bringing your cholesterol numbers down is important. High cholesterol can cause plaque buildup in your blood vessels, hampering the flow of your blood, which can lead to:

One of the primary issues when it comes to high cholesterol is that there are usually no symptoms as the plaque builds dangerously. That’s why we recommend frequent blood testing.

If we find that your cholesterol numbers aren’t where they should be, we recommend diet and exercise as a frontline treatment, as well as statin therapy if your numbers need some added help. Statins work by blocking cholesterol production, which helps keep plaque from building up in your blood vessels.

Now that we better understand the role of statins, let’s take a look at some of the myths and facts surrounding this therapy.

Statins can cause memory loss

Your brain requires cholesterol to function properly, so many assumed that blocking cholesterol production through statins would lead to memory loss. The reality is that your brain makes its own cholesterol supply and doesn’t rely on the cholesterol delivered by your blood.

Backing up this point, in a study of 20,000 people who were taking statins, researchers found no adverse effect on thinking and memory.

Statins can lead to diabetes

Statins do raise your blood sugar levels slightly, but when it comes to adult-onset diabetes, the existing high glucose levels before statins are introduced are the real culprit.

Statins affect liver function

The answer to this statement is yes and no. Statins target liver cells in order to block production of cholesterol, but it doesn’t appear to pose a real threat to liver function. That said, in rare cases (about 1 in 10,000), statin users do develop liver failure due to rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown).

I shouldn’t eat grapefruit if I’m taking statins

There is some truth to this statement. Grapefruit contains ingredients that interfere with how your body processes statins. This effect depends upon the statin you’re taking, and we’ll be sure to let you know whether there’s anything you should steer clear of before you get started.

I can stop taking statins once my cholesterol numbers lower

If your statin therapy successfully lowers your cholesterol numbers into healthier ranges, now’s not the time to stop taking them. If you abruptly stop statin use, your cholesterol levels may rise again. Instead, you should think of statin therapy as a long-term solution.

The bottom line is that statin therapy can play an extremely valuable role in your cardiovascular health, and the rewards will likely far outweigh any risks.

If you have more questions about statin therapy, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our offices in National City or Chula Vista, California.

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