Statins may have an unrecognized adverse effect, especially for older men. More than 3,000 men over the age of 65 were included in this Oregon State University study. The scientists found that men taking statins exercised about 40 minutes a week less than those not on such cholesterol-lowering drugs.
The men kept activity diaries and wore an accelerometer armband called SenseWear Pro3 for objective measurement of their physical activity. The men were followed for nearly seven years. The data show that men taking statins are less active for as long as they are on the medication. New statin users had the largest drop in physical activity.
The researchers speculate that statin use disrupts energy production within cells, leading to mitochondrial damage, fatigue, muscle pain and weakness. Exercise may make this worse, which may explain why statin users were less active. Because physical activity is important for maintaining cardiovascular fitness and avoiding metabolic conditions like diabetes, reducing exercise is a potentially negative complication of statin use.
The People’s Pharmacy perspective underscores the value of exercise for maintaining mental and physical health and a high quality of life. If drugs that may reduce exercise are needed, they should be used at the lowest possible dose and for the shortest feasible time. In our view, statin use should be the exception rather than the rule except for individuals who already have heart disease. Those who are interested in lowering cholesterol and heart disease risk without statins may wish to read our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health.