Should I Stop My Statins?

JANUARY 6, 2014 | VOL 17

Should I Stop My Statins?

You’ve probably heard of Lipitor, Zocor, and Crestor. You may even be taking one of these cholesterol-lowering drugs, which are known as statins. They are the most commonly prescribed medication, and for years, they’ve been touted as the best way to manage cholesterol.

Now, top Harvard cardiologists are questioning current cholesterol guidelines. The data to support this claim isn’t as solid as we thought, and we are now seeing that statins can cause some serious side effects, such as:

  • Muscle pain, damage, and aching
  • Mitochondrial damage
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Neurologic problems such as memory loss
  • Sexual dysfunction

In fact, researchers are now learning that mistakes were made in previous studies, prompting doctors to prescribe statins to patients who really didn’t need them. And this is a dangerous mistake to make, because statins come with some serious risks. More cardiologists are speaking out.

We used to think that there were very few side effects associated with this drug, but the truth is, up to 20 percent of statin users have experienced serious side effects like muscle pain, damage, and aching or high muscle enzymes. Statins can also poison your mitochondria, which are your cells’ energy-production factories and the single most important factor in healthy aging and wellness. Statins can hinder the mitochondria’s ability to produce energy effectively and can even kill cells off completely.

In one study, two groups of overweight, sedentary people were put on an exercise program for 12 weeks. One group was given a statin and the other group wasn’t. After 12 weeks, the group that had been taking the statin saw no improvement in their fitness level. It was as if they hadn’t exercised at all! In fact, when muscle biopsies were performed, doctors found the members of this group had four and a half percent less energy-production capacity in their cells. They were actually in worse condition than before they started the exercise program!

This is quite serious. I believe, in the next 10 years, we’re going to see a backlash against statins. In fact, we’re starting to see it already. We’re seeing now that they may not benefit everybody we thought they would. And we’re seeing that there are some serious risks involved. So, stay tuned for more on this.

In the meantime, I encourage you to read my blogs on statins, which show how they cause diabetes and neurologic problems. Also, read my blogs that explain how you can optimize your cholesterol and get the right type of cholesterol. Learn more about how to take care of your heart in a way that supports your health rather than damages it.

And if you like this House Call, I encourage you to share it with your friends and family on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for the newsletter, and submit your questions, so that, next week, I may make a House Call to you.

Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD

31 Responses to Should I Stop My Statins?

  1. Sheila January 6, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

    I refused to take a Statin.
    Instead, I changed my way of eating and
    my numbers went way down.
    I injured myself, and was unable to cook. For
    about a month, we had to do take out – not fast food.
    The numbers shot back up. Again they wanted
    to put me on a Stain. I said, NO! look at the labs from before.
    The power of eating properly couldn’t have been any clearer.
    My husband’s doctor wanted him to take a Statin not because
    his cholesterol was high, but because he is diabetic!
    I told her, NO!

  2. Al January 6, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

    This is supported with a lot of publications.
    Sad that almost all doctors don’t know the truth and think it is critical for CV disease control.
    We have to wait for another 10-20 years till the truth comes out after millions of people get provisioned and billions of dollars earned on the expense of public health.

  3. lydia Weiss January 6, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    any thoughts on Oral Lichen Planus? I have had this eroding condition to my mouth for over 30 years. i’d appreciate any knowledge from you.
    thanks for being who you are and keeping us well and ahead of the curve.
    I took my mom off of statin years ago when she started having muscle problems.
    she is all better now.

    aloha, Lydia

  4. Kerrie January 6, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    I saw a Cardiologist because my cholesterol levels were 6.9 , my dad died at 59 from a heart attack and i have atherosclerosis. He prescribed Crestor. I recovered my son from autism (vaccine damage) using nutrition and supplements.
    I gave the Crestor away after 3 pills. I take self-prescribed Mg, VitK2, Vit D3, Co-Q10,VitE,
    .lots of VitC and limit my carbs to fruit/veg (+1 very small slice rye toast -6sq inches a day).I eat coconut oil, lard, butter, eggs, meat with rind (love pork crackling) and exercise. I’m 5’8″ and weigh 138lbs. I never went back to the Cardiologist because I didn’t follow his advice (therefore didn’t do follow up tests)…….what do you suggest I do?

  5. Karen Hayden January 6, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

    How long are your videos available? I am a CNC for the employees of Oliver’s Markets (3 with one more on the way), and I am conducting “Lunchtime Food for Thought Sessions” and am wanting to show some of the videos to the participants. I also would like to know if it is OK to show your videos. I think your info is spot on. There is a lot of conflicting information on the net, and this is an opportunity to educate a lot of folks.

    Thanks for your reply,
    Karen Hayden CNC

  6. Barbara January 6, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    My question is can diet change ALS as they say there is no cure ? I am not diagnosed with any illnesses .

  7. LIz January 6, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    It’s about time that the establishment is admitting that their science was flawed but isn’t it just a little too late ( as always)? I apologize for sounding so cynical but I am extremely annoyed that this truthful information has taken so many years to get to this point when there were other doctors ( including my own) who have always made the claims that you’re making in this video! How many people must suffer under a physician’s care before someone realizes that our dysfunctional system isn’t working and that we need to end it as it operates today. I’ve known how dangerous statins are since at least 2001 and I’m not a physician.So, why the delay in accurate information? If doctors want to be trusted by their patients, then they need to quit relying on industry-funded research and start applying more ‘functional’ commonsense and intellect to their daily practice. Isn’t it just lovely that the ACA has now given us all access to this dysfunctional system that constantly distorts the truth for their own financial gain? Just thinking about it increases my blood pressure, creates anxiety, sleep disorders, TMJ, heart palpitations and overall, makes me ill ! Alright, so thanks Dr. Hyman for sharing the information even though it’s at least a decade over-due.

  8. Joy January 6, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

    How do I stop my Lipitor ? My dr says hetKes it and I should
    I have type 2 diabetes that, I rekkon happened after I took Lipitor
    And I do have low energy
    I try to exercise but feel worse
    All the symptoms you described
    What to do ?
    Please help
    X joy

  9. Jerry W January 6, 2014 at 9:23 pm #

    My doctor lower my atorvastatin to a half of a 20 mg pill per week. This still did not stop the cramping in my upper leg primarily, but also in my lower leg on many ocasions. I now take about 1/2 pill per ten days. I did this because this is the only way that I could tolerate the side effects from this medication. I am glad to finally hear something about this dangerous medication. Keep the good news coming.

  10. leomom January 6, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

    what about substitutions, such as Red Yeast Rice? are the any studies on efficacy and side effects?

  11. Omar January 6, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    I can see personally how harmful Statin drugs are. My dad, after years of using them, he’s now suffering Type-2 Diabetes and some kind on Dementia (very bad memory loss). In his case, a proper diet and exercise could have been more helpful, but his doctors always put medication as the primary choice, and now give him medication for the illnesses he has at this moment… it’s a cycle, it never ends.

  12. Lon January 6, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    I believe i have read that statins can cause or accelerate the formation of cataracts as well

  13. Bruce January 6, 2014 at 11:39 pm #

    I have high cholesterol. I tried Lipitor and got the achy joint thing. Years later a doctor put me on Lescol and in one month its shut my liver down (rash and dark urine). So I started an intense diet and exercise program which included Slo-Niacin (a natural statin) everything seemed to be working. But… I’m a cyclist and I discovered I was having trouble keeping my fitness up to keep up with my peers. I read an article on Livestrong about how statins do just what Dr. Hyman described in this video about muscle/fitness loss from statins. I went off the Niacin and was back to my normal cycing self in no time. Now I’m using beet juice, kale, spinach, tumeric, cinnamon, blueberries, bananas in my protein shakes and I feel great. Trouble is I still have high cholesterol unless I cut out just about everything.

  14. Dorothy January 6, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

    Seems to me it a cue to Go Vegetarian or better Vegan.
    Lets get back to what First Man had in his diet and cut out wheat and diriviatives, sugar and dirivat, and eat meat only at births, deaths and marriages. I consume the juice of a lemon each day to counteract the effects of blood urea which in my case was caused by muscle trauma. There is always something better but I fail to see, in all this infor on statins, information about the natural food substitute for developing and maintaining unclogged arteries etc. When persons especially in Australia have had a cholycystectomy, the patient is not warned against eating animal fats, cheese, cream etc. etc. I guess if this is a worldwide trend then i can understand there is a big problem with statins especially after these operations. I understand stress is also a very big player in high bad cholesterol. What are we telling out kids about the hirmful side effects of stress. Whose afraid of the Big Bad Wolf ie Phara. companies. I think there is something in keeping the layman mis. or un informed.

  15. Mark & Michelle Van Patten January 7, 2014 at 12:14 am #

    Do you have a referral for a functional medicine practitioner in the greater Los Angeles area, preferably the South Bay area (90275)? My husband and I are reading and trying to live the Blood Sugar Solution book and cookbook but need more guidance, direction and examination/testing.
    Thank you, Mark & Shel VP

  16. Noel January 7, 2014 at 6:07 am #

    I don’t know if you have already covered this, but may be its worth to do a video or post on use of Niacin in controlling cholesterol, esp for elderly population. This section of the population can not exercise as much as we would like to, for various reasons. Hence looking for some alternatives.

    • LIz January 7, 2014 at 9:37 am #

      Noel, I don’t think you need to exercise very vigorously to improve your health. You can go to youtube ( I call it youtube university ;D ) and find videos for ” Exercises for Senior Citizens”. There are many videos available and I’ve used them many times…especially the chair exercises.
      All the B vitamins help our bodies metabolize fats and proteins better. I’ve heard that niacin, B3, can lower LDL but I think you should find out from your doctor what dose to take.
      My daily breakfast consists of Steel Cut food that helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. You want to eat foods that raise HDL. I eat chia seeds instead of flax because they are a good source of omega 3 and don’t need to be freshly ground to be digested. I put them on my salads and in smoothies. I also take the Kyolic garlic supplement for heart health as well as eating lots of fresh garlic. I don’t eat much meat but I do like fish like Halibut and salmon. I also take krill Oil supplements for omega 3. I like Krill better than other fishy supplements since it has no after taste.

      By the way, I’ve learned that lab results can be very misleading and misinterpreted. My doctor explained to me that doctors should look at the ratio of LDL to HDL instead of just looking at the values independently. He told me to divide my Total cholesterol value by the HDL value and if it is 4 or less I’m low risk.

      • Maureen January 7, 2014 at 10:51 am #

        First, asking most doctors doesn’t help. I took myself off statins a few years back. Later, a Doppler showed my left carotid artery to be almost 85% blocked. I had an Endarterectomy and was told I had to take statins. Of course, I don’t know if not taking statins caused the blockage. I was 77 at the time; now 80. I hate statins. I hurt all the time. Answer is that I am older. I have osteoporosis, lots of arthritis all over, Fibromyalgia and chronic tendonitis. They all seem to e worse since I went back on statins. I also have idiopathic peripheral neuropathy and Hypothryoidism. Sure wonder if these are connected.

  17. LIz January 7, 2014 at 8:58 am #

    After writing my post above, I realized that the patents on some, if not all, statins have expired. Hence, the truth about them surfaces. Once again crony capitalism rules the roost. Some Dr.’s should put a sign on their door: ‘ Patients enter at your own risk’. Fortunately, I have a doctor that practices Functional/Preventive medicine. I’m very blessed to have such a wonderful, compassionate, passionate and intelligent doctor but I worry about those who are not as fortunate. BTW, my doctor spends about two hours with me once a year and it costs me around 300 dollars for the visit and lab tests ( no insurance used).

  18. Ned Jacobs, St. Croix, VI January 7, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    Thank you, Dr. Hyman – and especially thank you for giving us the option to read your message instead of being required to watch it or listen to it, as is so often the case when messages are offered in emails on medical subjects.

    Liz, you have it exactly right, although your message is perhaps a tiny bit overstated – but not much.

    I suspect most doctors are scared to death of not simply prescribing one of the latest approved prescription drugs to address patient issues – for fear they will be regarded as a quack or not up-to-date, and for fear of being sued for not delivering the latest.

    The “safer” course to protect their practice is likely to simply follow the crowd and dole out the drugs. Plus, it probably doesn’t pay to guide a patient through the non-prescription drug alternative route to deal with the patient issues.

  19. Cheryl January 7, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    My husband was on Lipitor for about 3 years, 10-20 mg a day. One day he started having slurred speech whenever he talked or when eating. The doctor tested for Myastenias Gravis and his Acetylcholine Receptor antibodies were elevated. The wanted to go with other expensive testing. I went to web md and got into a blog about Lipitor. That’s when I started thinking this could be a side effect from Lipitor. He stopped it and the symptoms went away. Since I’m a nurse I looked at an old edition of the Physicians Desk Reference and it list Myasenias Gravis as an adverse effect. Wow! We now have changed our lifestyle, are Vegans and do regular exercise and my husbands labs are great and he’s fine. Hope this helps someone else out there.

  20. KenH January 7, 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    I have been taking Statins ever since I had a triple bypass in 1996 at the age of 38. My Cholesterol was a 318 on that day. At the time My weight was about 150 (I am 5’7″ tall). Ever since then, I have steadily gained weight, and the doctors increased the dosage from 5mg/day to 40mg/day.
    I now weigh 225 pounds, have been having difficulty recalling names and phone numbers, literally do not feel like doing anything except sit in a chair all day and cannot lose weight even when I go on diets that HIGHLY restrict my calorie intake.
    A little over a week ago, I decided to stop the statins (Lipitor) to see if it would make me feel any better and help with the weight loss. Within the first week I lost 8 pounds, without changing my diet at all, in fact I may have been eating MORE than usual due to the holidays. I am definitely feeling more energetic and my ability to recall names and numbers seems to be improving.

  21. Paty January 7, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    After many lab tests and scans, It is true, I have too high levels of calcium. I’ve been diagnosed with an overactive parathyroid gland. I will like to know if there is an alternative to removing the overactive parathyroid gland? I need to make a decision a.s.a.p. Thank you
    P.S. I was able to get rid of diabetes 2 by following “Blood Sugar Solution” plan. So, I trust Dr. Hyman’s opinion.

    • Judy January 15, 2014 at 10:31 am #

      Hi Paty,
      I recently had the same thing. High calcium means an overactive parathyroid gland. I didn’t believe it at first, either. But there is a specialized center in Tampa, FL which is where I went – google the Norman Parathyroid Center. They have simplified the procedure for removing the bad pt gland to a 15 min. out-patient operation, compared to other hospitals where it is a 4-hour operation. I strongly urge you to contact the Norman Center. For diagnosis and cure. Having too much calcium means bad things for your body – the calcium is being taken from your bones and is free-flowing; it can cause hardening of the arteries, kidney stones and a slew of other nasties. You know how you are feeling; probably very tired, foggy at times, just not yourself. I would be happy to talk with you if you wish. By the way, I had the bad pt gland removed last April in FL and my calcium levels immediately returned to normal. So did the way I felt. It was rather miraculous. The insurance paid. I strongly urge you to check it out! Good luck and best of health!

  22. Lou Johanek January 7, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

    I’m 64 yo female, 40 lbs overweight, Postive for lipoprotein -a- with some carotid stensis and cannot tolerate the statins i’m on, but cardiologist said to try the old one called prevasstatin 10mg instead of 40mg crestor to see if muscle aches would go away. They didn’t. I eat healthy, exercise some, b/p is good, but cholester is high. Diabetes runs in family and i’m afraid if I stay on statins I’ll end up with type 2 diabetes too . Fastin blood sugar ranges from 87-105. I can’t find anyone to listen to me. Please tell me what you recommend I do. Off statin, my Chol went up to 285,Hdl 59, Ldl 130, trig.112. They want my Ldl below 100. due to carotid plaque. I stay away from grains and dairy. Eat basically no sugar. Eat lean meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and some low glycemic fruits. Look forward to hearing from you. LouJ.

  23. Michael Destro January 7, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    Thanks for your article on the latest statin research. I would like to ask what your thoughts and advice would be on the alternatives to taking statins. Currently I take atorvastatin, because without it, my bad cholesterol is slightly (10%) over the normal range, and my good cholesterol is easily within the normal range. I have never been overweight. FYI, I do take a CoQ10 (100mg) once daily.
    Thanks for your response.

  24. Joe January 7, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

    You are very fortunate to have such a progressive doctor who practices preventive medicine and is willing to spend so much time with his patients. Can you recommend sources we can consult to find such doctors? Thank you.

  25. Kuti Aharon January 9, 2014 at 4:39 am #

    Sice I am suffering from Diabetis and I have about 3 stunts in my artheris I used to take all types of Statins including lipitore as well as others .

    I have told my Cardiologist that I want to stop useing it as I am suffering from pain and slowly I find difficulties walking ai my age 65 I know it is hard to make changes but I want to.

    My doctore has told me that the risk compering to the help does not allow to stop useing the Statins as it hardens the pluck to the wall of the Artheries and will not allow it to leave the wall i.e . will glue it to the wall and will hold it there and if a blood with some trombocist will flow it will not clog and will not cause demage to the haert or the brain.

    can this happen or there is such a risk to stop useing the Statines ?
    I will really appreciate your reply and concern on this matter.

  26. rita January 9, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    if these satins are so life saving, why do they coast so much as in $180 a month?
    the product coast 10 cents to make and the rest of the monies are split between pure profits and advertising. BS is all I can say!

  27. Gary January 10, 2014 at 12:07 am #

    I was prescribed Lipitor, Crestor, and then my cardiologist wanted to try another statin. I had extreme leg pains and was unable to run my landscaping business and sold it. I then fired that cardiologist and went to another one that wanted to go the statin route again to which I refused. I now take Zetia, what should I expect from this medication. Thank you for your expose of the statin problems. Gary

  28. Millie Park February 4, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

    I am a diabetic for 20 years after seeing a new doctor blood test that his clinic does personally I was told that I am in very bad shape ready to have a heart attack need to be on lipitor or Crestor I’m very active jog for a 5 days a weekplay tennis do not smoke or drink eat aviary healthy diet very little red meat mostly fish a nvegetables fruit and nutschicken and turkey also there is no heart disease in my family what do you think is going on please help me

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