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Non-Statin Solutions For Cholesterol

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Q. I have been battling statin side effects for years. My doctor has prescribed Lipitor, Crestor, Pravachol, Lescol and Zocor, but I cannot tolerate any of them because of muscle pain and weakness.

It is imperative for me to keep my lipids under control because of coronary artery disease. What can you tell me about niacin and other ways to control LDL cholesterol? I would also like to know how to raise HDL cholesterol.

A. Although statin-type drugs are extremely effective at lowering LDL cholesterol, many people cannot tolerate side effects such as muscle problems, nerve damage (neuropathy) or memory impairment. There are other ways to lower cholesterol, however.

Niacin can be a very effective way to lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol. It also reduces triglycerides. A doctor must supervise niacin use, since it can cause liver toxicity as well as uncomfortable side effects (flushing and itching).

Other strategies include fish oil and the soluble fiber psyllium. Non-statin prescription drugs that can help control cholesterol include WelChol, Tricor and Zetia.

We are sending you our Guides to Heart Health and Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs with more information about niacin, fish oil and other strategies. They can be downloaded for $2 from this Website. 

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As I was getting a Rx refilled for a statin I commented to the pharmacist I didn't like the drug because I thought it made my shoulders ache. She said I probably shouldn't continue taking it. Suggested I think about Red Yeast Rice. I talked to my MD who said it was worth a try and after taking the capsules 3 months, 2 caps twice a day, my cholesterol was down amazingly! MD very pleased and so am I. I've taken it for 2 years and have continued improving and now only take 2 caps a day. Nell

I have trouble with statin drugs, as well as zetia, and I have had success with policosanol and phyto-sterols to help lower my cholesterol. My doctor is even pleased with the results, as well as my pharmacist sister, who can't take statins either.

I'm taking Zetia and have had leg cramps at night prior to taking this drug and continue getting leg cramps. My cholesterol has been lowered. I've tried soap under the sheets to no avail. Any other natural vitamin or pills to lower cholesterol without the leg cramps?

You may not need any drugs to lower your cholesterol if your willpower is strong.

A study at Washington University in St. Louis reports amazing results from people following a calorie-restricted diet.

Tables 2 and 3 really tell the whole story. Study participants' LDL dropped from 122 to 86 after following a diet of roughly 1,200 calories/day.

Other studies find restricting calories only every other day can have excellent results controlling type 2 diabetes in obese people who otherwise can't be helped by drugs.

If you can't lower calories (I certainly wouldn't blame you for not), my statin-sensitive neighbor had very good results with red yeast rice and CoQ10.

Best of luck.

After being on Crestor for 3 yrs, I had a terrible reaction with muscles weakness/pains over much of body. Was sent to a cardiologist who suggested an OTC medication called CholestOff. He said one gets all of the benefits of a statin without side effects!

I have slightly elevated cholesterol 200-220 average for many years with no history of heart disease and have an objection to statins. I began 10mg daily of policosanol 3 mos. ago and have lowered total 180,raised good and lowered bad with no side effects. Has policosonal gained much acceptance in the medical community?


I have taken Lipitor, Crestor, Vytorin, Zocor, Zetia and Pravastatin (or Pravachol). I am very concerned since I have suffered serious side effects from all of these medications, mostly muscle pain and weakness. I am experiencing a cough and cold right now that has endured for days since taking Pravachol in the past 5 days. I have read some of the comments here, and will try some statin-free options mentioned here. Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions.

I recently was prescribed Crestor and had a reaction of where my throat was constricting (difficult to swallow) and shortness of breath along with a high fever. I have taken Zetia and that caused body swelling. Along with the Crestor I was on Augmentin. My doctor thinks that it was the Augmentin (though I have taken it before and have never had that kind of reaction). I am trying to find alternatives to statins for lowering my cholestrol. Any suggestions? I think the statins are causing my allergic reactions I have been having.

After taking Zocor for several months, I developed severe muscle pain and starting losing eyebrow and body hair. Although I have been off statins now for 6 months, my hair continues to fall out. Could this be due to having taken Zocor? If so, is this condition reversible? Has anyone else experienced this?

I have been on statin medication for 9 years-It immediately lowered my cholesterol. My father and 3 siblings all had by-passes. I an seeing an orthopedic dr soon for what I believe is chronic tendonitis-(Shoulders diagnosed 2 years ago), knees,and hips. The pain is worst at night and interrupts my sleep. Should I ask the ortho dr to consult with my GP to get a non statin? I am a 57 yr old female.

I've had bad results after taking every kind of statin. This last time I was on simvastatin for about 3 months then woke up one morning with terrible shoulder and hip pain. I chased that pain for 7 months and finally after massage therapy, an mri, physical therapy, and various pain meds I came upon poly myalgia rheumatica. I suggested this possibility to my doc and even though blood tests showed no indicator, i.e. high sed rate, he prescribed low dose prednisone - I got immediate relief at 10 mg. Now I take 3.75 mg/day and get substantial relief. I believe the statin caused the pmr.

For the last 8 months I am experiencing leg cramps and leg muscle weakness. I have seen ortho doctor who did not help me much. I had therapy which did not bring any change.
Could this happened due to the vytorin 10/20mg I take to lower my cholesterol?

I took simvastin for 6 weeks in 2008. Doc doubled the dosage to get better results. Before the dosage increase, I developed a stiff neck, then shoulders. After doubling the dose, I got a high fever - very sick- then my hips became stiff and achy. I could barely walk for weeks. Doc diagnosed me with PMR. I took myself off the statin when I got the fever. I have been on approx 10 mg prednisone for 9 mos. Still trying to lower the prednisone in hopes the muscle aching is gone. My cholesterol is still bad - but I am not confident that the statin is for me. Exploring the cholest-off, fish oils, etc. Any advise? Doc denies that the statin caused any of this.

I have tried the statin drugs too and experienced immediate leg cramps. I am trying to watch what I eat and am exercising but my cholesterol is still high and my triglycerides are off the chart. Any ideas? I use Co-Q 10 and take fish oil. I have not tried the Red Yeast Rice but will get some tonight on my way home. Any other ideas? I'm 52.

Hello to everyone,

Seems many patients are lowering their cholesterol, but at a high price.
I too have been taking "statins' name the company , and I took their's for awhile, "Lipitor" being the last kind.
I do have heart problems, I now sport 4 "stents", and still suffer from angina.
I'm 73 this coming March, and would like to live well into my 80s, so I take all the meds my doctors prescribe....however in December, 2008 when I had two new "stents" implanted my Lipitor dose was upped to 40mg, from the 10mg dose, and Zetiea was added.

Well I had suffered from foot, and legs cramps for ages, but now I began to suffer an intense amount of leg pain, not just "charley horse" type pain, more like my muscles were being wrung out. No amount of standing, rubbing etc. etc. that I did would help, I would at times HOWL with pain, not my usual behavior, but this was agony. To make things worse my "wrung out muscles" now ached for days on end. Finally in desperation I came to my computer and "Goggled" Leg pain-Statins, and finally found answers to my questions.

Of course I have stopped taking Lipitor and Zetia!
I informed my family doctor who is certain that everything I have read is WRONG, CoQ10 which I now take is useless... what am I doing going to web, its all lies on the web.

Perhaps, but we the people can not all be wrong and liars!

I've only been off the statins for less than a month, and I still have leg cramps, and muscle pain, and weakness.

Also a few years ago I thought I was beginning the symptoms of some sort of dementia, was tested, and found to be okay, and because of my age felt that this was the reason, but know I would swear that my first start of taking statin drugs are the answer.
My forgetfulness came on like a bang, I began the new drug Lipitor, and then bingo I had memory troubles.

I am wishing everyone better health, and a good quality of life.

I was put on Quinine 400mg for leg cramps but this did nothing for me, then I read that in the USA Quinine was no longer being prescribed? Well I stopped taking that too.
I had always thought my leg cramps were caused because I perspire profusely from pain meds I have to take, so I'd drink a bottle of Gatorade, to redress my electrolyte, an sometimes the cramping would ease. When I was put on 40mg of Lipitor that Gatorade was of no help.

Last resort! I just got my blood test results and am not pleased. Like the rest who have responded to this site, I have tried them all LIPITOR being the BEST for controlling my cholesterol, but the WORST, as far as my quality of life. It started with a stiff neck for over a month, and every afternoon at 3pm, a lower back pain that could not be tolerated. I was sent to therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and did the Vax D therapy to the tune of about $30,000. No relief.

When my sister told of a medication she had taken (non statin) for her bone deterioration, she said I should ask my pharmacist about side effects of my drugs. SHAZAM. So off the Lipitor I went, and the pain factor disappeared...but, my cholesterols, triglycerides, and the rest took an ugly turn upward. I am desperate. What is the answer?

I have a bottle of CholestOff, that I got as a sample, and never used, because it said NOT to use it with statins. I just went on the CO Q10. I heard that red rice could give you cancer, and have not tried that yet. After reading this site, I will have a consultation with my GP, and have a stress test next month. Last time I did the stress test, I reached level 3, and was told I was going great....except for the neck and back pain that his made my life unbearable. Can anyone give me the MAGIC ANSWER! --- Thanks, Ray


Look for an alternative to statins--am convinced from my own experience that they do indeed cause muscle pains and weakness. Acupuncture and stopping Lipitor cold turkey cured me after 4 days from leg pain that had lasted 3 mos.

I'm still trying to regain strength in my thighs after a decade on Lipitor but at least the constant cramps and ache are gone! Unfortunately, my cholesterol is up so am looking for alternatives. I don't think red rice yeast is the answer as that's what statins are made from AND it has a similar negative effect on me.


I have been on the usual statins and zetia on and off for about 20 years with my cholesterol going up respectively. I have been so frustrated with my doctor's comment that he doubts my pains come from the statins as it is a rare side effect. Both of my daughter's who have me on week long visits during the year both live in houses with steps and stairs and I feel like an ancient trying to do ordinary things during my visits.

I am 67 and feel like 107 so this year after the visits I took myself off statins! My physical is coming up and I know how the discussion will go (since both parents, Dad had a triple by-pass and my Mom died of a heat attack) and will add to his wanting me to stay on statins.

Statin caused pain is so debilitating to me in every waking hour I have decided that if I can't find another way of controlling my cholesterol, quality of life is better than quantity.

I have not been successful with statins, & am allergic to Niacin, & just recently became allergic to fenofibrate. I have to take something & cannot take statins. If anyone reads this & has a recommendation, please e-mail me. Thank You

I, too have had muscle pain and weakness and I believe it's because of statins. I took Zocor for years and then the MD wanted to add zetia and I made a comment. It would be great if the two would be combined and he then prescribed Vytorin. I then switched back to Zocor when the generic became available and the dosage was increased from 20 to 40 mg.

My cholesterol is great, but the side effects are real. I have mentioned this to two of my doctors who did not seem to think so. I read yesterday in the people's Pharmacy newspaper column about Niacin and Fish Oil and am hoping to find out what dosage amount is correct. I would like to hear from People's Pharmacy and anyone else who are using this successfully in place of statins.

Thank you for sharing this information.



I just went to the worst Doctor appointment ever.

I have never wanted to take Statins. I have never heard anything good about them. I refuse to even try to do it. I have dieted and had good results. But the Dr. today insisted it wasn't good enough and scared me to death.

Total= 229 = down from 249
LDL = 141 down from 159
HDL ? wasn't told that number.
Triglycerides = 311 up from 210???? after I got it down from 289.

I did this with diet alone no red meat or dairy. NO FAT!
The Dr. yelled at me to take it! Time for another Dr. besides that I have white-coat syndrome and my BP sky rockets. She yelled at me about that also. This was the first time I had ever seen her.

"red yeast rice is almost identical to lovastatin, which is the key ingredient in the statin drug Mevacor."

The People's Pharmacy has a weekly column in our local newspaper that has given me priceless advice which has been very beneficial over time. I look forward to getting more health tips and information on your website as well as reading your newspaper articles. Thank you so much! ghh

I have cholesterol in the low 300's....Went on zocor for a month and could not tolerate. After a few years, Dr wanted me to try "pravastatin." In a very short time I noticed
memory problems....... This drug DOES have an effect on MEMORY for me!! My cholesterol is down but I have no intentions of dealing with memory/dementia... I even asked my pharmacist about the drug and its effect on memory... Answer was: Would you rather die of a heart attack or stroke?

I was taking TriCor which is listed as not being a statin but my knees had began hurting so bad and were very tender to the touch... actually the entire skin area around my knees was tender too... Within a month of stopping the drug, I have no more knee pain and my skin is not tender to the touch!

I need to start a different therapy and am considering the Red Yeast Rice.

I would definitely tell your doctor of your problems. You will be surprised at how different you will feel once you stop taking the drug!!

THAT would be the ONLY doctor who ever hollered at me!!

I read this site and decided I was being scamed by the drug companys and in my opinion we all are. Read this site and decided for yourself.

THINCS.ORG Excelent site.

Hi I was on lipitor and I had muscle pain and now got eye floaters all this from statins my doctor said it is not statins that cause it ....

I tried simvastatin, pravastatin, and now Lipitor and all three resulted in severe eczema. The first two caused itchy rashes mainly on legs and a bit on torso and arms. Lipitor caused severe eczema on the face only. I will now try a non-statin drug as well as changes in diet (fewer eggs, hamburgers, etc.).

I have been taking Cholest-Off and it did ABSOLUTELY nothing for my cholesterol. Actually my bad cholesterol went up 1 point. I did lower my triglycerides by half but she thinks that's the fish oil pills. Dr said to keep taking the Cholest-off and fish oil until she can find a solution for me that works (Statin issues). I've tried Welchol and it makes me gag because it clumps. The pills are too big.

I asked her just now (as I write this) about C0Q10 and she said yes, try that. I will also try red yeast rice as well.

I have experienced various side effects from taking statins but due to family history (both mother and father having had heart conditions), I must take some medication to lower my cholesterol. I am presently on 10 mg. of Lipitor and months ago started taking Cholestoff in addition (my physician is the one that recommended the plant sterols found in Cholestoff) and I have also been more careful with my daily food intake.

As a result over the last twelve months I have lost 25 lbs. I did not see a drop in my cholesterol until this past December. My overall cholesterol is down to 202 from 234, my LDL is now 104 down from 132 and the HDL is 79 and triglycerides are 97. My current problem is that I began to get an itchy feeling and my allergist said to stop the Cholestoff for a couple of weeks and gradually resume taking the tablets.

I had been taking 2 prior to lunch and 2 prior to dinner (900 mg for two tablets so I was maxing out at 1800 mg. for the day). My Lipitor intake has been 10 mg. every other day. I do hope that this does not set my numbers going off in the wrong direction again because I am really happy that I have finally got the cholesterol numbers where they are respectable!!

I need to say this. This seems like a good place to post.

I have tried RYR, Lipitor, simvastatin, Crestor. Every one of them caused a stiff neck which caused tension headaches. Also, on 3 occasions I had ocular migraines which never in my life have I had. While off of the statins never experienced one. My sex drive was ka-put! Lust for life taken away. Trouble sleeping and somewhat constipated. I gave up alcohol, everything, to get this to work. Although I have a very very healthy diet and weigh 195 @ 6'2" (within healthy zone) and workout (lift, run, etc) my cholesterol still clocks in at 245. My HDL is good at 70 but my total is still too high.

I am now cranking down on the diet. I have switched to green salads for lunch, have replaced other carbs with raw nuts, my fruits are already good, I already do not eat meat and have now cut out chicken, I am going with fish and soy as my protein sources, and overall just going low glycemic. I think I'll get my weight down to 185. I wish I could find out how to get one of those MRI or MRA or whatever its called to see if I have any plaque build up. I mean, I'm not even sure I have a problem.

All I know is my total cholesterol is 245 and really, what does that actually mean? I mean, cholesterol is a family and comes in several forms each having very different uses and effects. Both HDL and LDL are split up into more subfractions. Who is to say that my 245 isn't actually perfect and all I am doing by taking a statin is poisoning myself and that's the reason for the adverse effects.

I wish "they" would just release the real data on cholesterol and Dr's would start doing a full test on the complete spectrum of cholesterol. This is all a bunch of BS. We are all being slowly killed with this bogus BS so someone can make a ton of money. I saw where Bill Clinton is on this strict vegan diet and now his cholesterol profile is perfect. Of course, whatever perfect means when talking cholesterol, but still his diet yielded results. OK, I'm done venting.

My Mother was on vytorin for years and must have have adverse reactions. (pain in extremities, abdominal pain listlessness @ times). Then had a non-responsive episode requiring hospitalization. Vytorin was stopped. Placed on lipitor. Her side effects were abdominal pain distention, constipation shoulder and knee pain, memory loss, elevated liver function. Once lipitor was stopped no further pain. Now cholesterol is elevated. What shall we try now?

I have taken Cholestoff and had to quit. Not long after I started taking it I was having shortness of breath and muscle aches. The aching muscles didn't bother me as much as the shortness of breath did. Has anyone else had these symptoms with statins? My total cholesterol is 290 but my HDL is 100 and my triglycerides are 25.

Just started taking a statin two weeks ago. I was prescribed Simvastatin 20 mg 1 time at bedtime. I had immediate bad reaction of headaches and nausea. Tried staying on them for 4 days but nothing changed. I called my Dr. and he changed me to Lipitor. I am having the same reaction to it. I will be calling him in the morning to change this prescription as well. I don't think I have been on either one long enough to experience the muscle pain or weakness. However, my husband took Tricor and Lipitor for years and has complained of muscle problems in his back.

He just went for a stress test with a new cardiologist about two months ago and he was taken off Tricor and Lipitor and they were replaced by Lovaza and Crestor. He is still experiencing muscle pain in his back. These "statins" are NOT the answer. I sure wish with all the research that is being done, that they would find something without these side effects. Will be doing more research and will post any findings. My niece is a pharmacist-I will start there!!

Thanks for all of the input to this site!

I took simvistatin for a while and had horrible joint and muscle problems in my arms, shoulder and hip area. She took me off and put me on pravastatin. The problem is better in the hip area, but not in the shoulder and arm area, especially at nighttime. It is very painful. I have taken more ibuprofen in the last year than I have taken in my entire lifetime. Isn't there something that is better than statins? My husband takes Advicor and has no problems, but it is very expensive; $371 for 90 pills. I'm 71.

The problem with red yeast rice is that it also contains a statin. I looked it up in a medical journal. I need to lower my very high cholesterol without statins as I get severe muscle pain and weakness. I am trying exercise, and was exercising regularly until my muscles backfired on me. Since I got off the statin (Simvastatin) my muscles have gained some strength, but functioning is far from normal. I eat oatmeal every day, use olive oil for cooking religiously, and exercise. I also need to lose a lot of weight, but I have had ha high cholesterol since I was at a normal weight. I have to build up what muscle I have lost, but my muscles still feel weak. I need to find another alternative to statins. I am scared s***-less of them! My GP doc is no help.

My problem with the statins I've been prescribed (Lipitor, Pravastatin) is sleeplessness. I spend 2-3 hours trying to get to sleep and get run down on 3-4 hours sleep at night. When I stop taking the statin, the problem goes away. I haven't seen this side effect in any comments. Has anyone else experienced this?

As a 59 year old female with a family history of high cholesterol, fibro, and heart disease as well as secondary diabetes II, I am now being advised to start on a statin. I just recently got the leg cramps under control and the side effects treated via chiropractic and the fibro under control with alfalfa and non-shellfish glucosomine (allergic to shellfish). I am a quarter to half dose medication person which doctors refuse to understand -- yes, a children's Tylenol is all I take for most headaches even when I take that much. I have had to quit a professional job due to fibro.

My mom has taken thyroid medication for years and struggled with her weight because of them. I was on thyroid medication in the past and gained 25 pounds from it, losing most of it when I carefully ate after throwing the medicine at the PA/Dr. I got rid of migraines without medication but forgot how I did that- chiropractic I think. I am allergic to pork, dairy except processed milk aka cheese, and shellfish.

My PA wants to 1) put me on a statin, 2) wants me on thyroid medicine, 3) a low-glycemic diet (I'm already almost a cheese/egg/fish vegetarian) and 4) wants me to lose weight. I am terrified of the statins and have been taking lecithin, garlic and hawthorn to try to get higher numbers down in addition to using a modified Daniel diet.

I do take a 25 gram low cholesterol/low sugar protein shake daily and have lost 15-20 pounds just watching my weight. However, that's still a LOT of pills to take. I also use Chromium Picolonate 800 to turn any sugar into energy. I have been investigating the guggalipid herb in that it's supposed to address what I believe to be the central issue... thyroid as well as cholesterol. Am I barking up the right tree or is there a better approach?

(My dad is a near zombie from all his medication -- from all appearances he has Alzheimer's but reading about the statins I see why it appears that way.) I don't care to go that route myself and would just as soon die happy and alert rather than do the statins. HELP!

I won't take a statin. Go to this site and read all of it. Cholesterol Myth. I won't take thyroid either. I'm not going to be a zombie or in pain from drugs that are supposed to help.

I am attempting to find a solution to the problem I am facing with my cholesterol. I have been taking statins for almost 30 years. I have gone through them all. I have been changed several times due to muscle cramps.

Recently, I have been taken off of statins entirely. My numbers were great. Total was 129 and below. LDL has been 50, triglycerides 93. However, three weeks ago my CPK (CK) climbed to over 15,000. They stopped everything. After three weeks my CK level has dropped back to 106. My Lipid levels are now: Total 260 and rising, LDL 188, and Trigly. at 168.

Years ago they tried just a strict diet because my total level was just above 200. After six months on the diet I climbed to 358. I am headed in that direction now or higher.

I have had five heart procedures and three brain surgeries among my 21 major surgeries. I enjoy eating and hate to think of living my last 30 plus years consuming food that I hate. I am currently 71. They have taken away my exercise, my medication for cholesterol and put me on all sorts of over the counter supplements. This has not helped at all. In fact, I have read on and other sites that it is not wise to be purchasing over the counter supplements because they are not subject to FDA approval and are just a money ripoff. I have read many articles on what not to take or consume, but nobody has any information on how do I lower my numbers by 100% to 200% in some cases without the statins.

I have been cautioned about not taking niacin since there is a correlation between many of the non statin drugs and cancer. I have had a slight case of bladder cancer. Everyone in my family passed away from cancer related disease and I have a daughter who has had two bouts of cancer. The latest was breast cancer.

I am not getting any answers from any of the sites on the internet where I have left messages. I do not know if this one will be any different.

Any avenues that anyone can suggest would at least give me some places to look. I do have access to two specialists in Lipid/pharmacy treatment at the UW-Madison Hospital in Wisconsin, but so far no one has come up with an answer. I do know that diet changes will not do it. Long ago I had been told that I should not try to starve myself of Cholesterol because it causes my liver to accelerate the making of a natural source. This is why I went as high as 350 and higher.

HELP!!!! would be appreciated. At least to the extent that I need to know what questions to ask doctors.

P.S. I have had an extremely heavy athletic career and did exercise very consistently up until the Rhamdo.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Rhabdomyolysis is a very serious complication of statins. It could be exacerbated if you were also doing some unusually strenuous exercise.

Although nothing is as quick or complete at lowering cholesterol as statins, there are other ways to get your cholesterol down. Ask your doctor about fibrates.

My pharmacist and doctor helped me formulate this daily routine of supplements as an alternate to statin drugs:
1) 500mg Niacin (w/81mg aspirin for my heart/ prevents niacin side effect of itching)
2) Metamucil/psylium fiber drink occasionally.
Dinner time:
2) Red grape juice or occasional red wine.
3) Tripple Omega fatty acids from flax/borage seed/fish oils, or krill oil.
4) Cholestoff occasionally
5) Walnuts, berries, green tea
6) Red Yeast Rice
7) Oatmeal/fibrous grains, Multivitamin
8) Co Q-10

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