Q. Several years ago, when my cholesterol was 240, my doctor “ordered” me to take a statin, even though my triglycerides were low and my good HDL high. I pointed out that at age 60, I was able to hike at altitudes over 10,000 feet carrying a pack with very little effort and could easily jog 6 miles or more. He dismissed this and would not answer my questions about statins.

I wondered if he was concerned about liability, so I offered to sign a release statement showing he had directed me to take a statin and I had declined. He accepted. A few years later, I received a letter from him letting me know how lucky I had been to be his patient and dismissing me from his care.

The whole situation was so absurd I wasn’t even offended. I am now closing in on 72, still jogging, still backpacking and still not taking statins.

A. The evidence that statins prevent initial heart attacks or prolong life in otherwise healthy people is weak (JAMA Internal Medicine, June 28, 2010). Your doctor should have applauded you as a role model for maintaining such good health.

We discuss the pros and cons of statins and offer many non-drug solutions in our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health. Some people develop muscle pain on statins, which keeps them from exercising as vigorously as you do. While there are people who benefit from statins, they are most appropriate for people who have heart disease or multiple risk factors, not just high total cholesterol. We believe that your doctor should have been willing to re-examine the evidence and think he might have come over to your perspective if he had done so.

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  1. john

    I am 82, and have had triple By Pass surgery. Also Type 2 Diabetic. I was at first put on Statins and I quit. as I too had head aches and muscle pain. I am not very active but do feel better and My sugars are lower.
    My cardiologist wants to put me back on Statins even the fact my levels are at a combined 100. I still refuse. as I feel that Quality of life is more important than quantity. I take Insulin and two pills for Blood Presure and that’s enough for me ,, I don’t want to be the guy in the casket with a body full of pills.

  2. Carol

    WOW, and the FDA is putting gag orders on people who study, research, and try to take responsibility for their own health.

    Tell someone who cares–if you find one of those who has the right intentions, cherish them for they are rare. I so appreciate a confident doctor, who has integrity and being in his profession because he cares.

  3. H. Leon Raper
    Scottsdale, AZ

    I had over 30 appointments at Mayo Clinic regarding memory problems and muscle pain. Not one doctor ever mentioned that Simvastatin may be the problem. Finally I did some research on the Mayo Clinic web site and found that statins often caused these type problems. About 30 days ago (9/14/2014) I stopped taking Simvastatin and within 3 days my muscle pain was gone. I’m not sure about the memory problem yet.

  4. Andromache

    I switched doctors due to one’s insistence that I take a statin and have a complete cardiac workup (I had a normal EKG–she wanted a nuclear stress test and echocardiogram)–my numbers were all at normal-elevated normal except triglycerides (which were admittedly high). I found a different doctor, and started using fish and flax oil, red rice yeast, and slo-Niacin. Except for some flushing on occasion, I have had no side effects. My new doctor is very pleased with the results and even suggested increasing fish oil to help with triglycerides; I go back in about 2 months for a recheck to make sure things are staying on track. I have no history of heart disease in my family–but I do have significant bone/joint issues (osteoarthritis and a cervical disk replacement at 2 levels when I was 43). There was no way I am going to take a statin, given the daily joint pain I have to manage.

  5. tko

    I am sorry for your loss

  6. crandreww

    @ Shirley…Why is there a blockage when you are taking a statin drug? Aren’t they “supposed” to prevent that sort of thing? While I am not a doctor, nor would I ever be, I would recommend a diet rich in antioxidant foods… Nuts, Veggies, Berries (most all berries have a high ORAC value) meaning they scavenge up free radicals which cause heart disease. Here is a good site with good ORAC food recommendations… if you decide to continue taking a statin, consider adding Ubiquinol (reduced form of CoQ10)Ubiquinol is as vital to life as Cholesterol is, and statin drugs block production of this critical molecule in the same pathway that Cholesterol is blocked… also know that for many people, these side effects of statin drugs are PERMANENT… and incurable.

  7. Shirley

    I’m taking Crestor and I’m tired all the time I get out of breath when I walk I have to sit down and rest. I had a cardio catheration done they found a small blockage I need to know what I can take instead of Crestor thank you.

  8. John

    I had heart surgery (4 bypasses) last year and I have been on statins ever since. First on Lipitor which made a lot of gas in my GI and then on crestor which makes my lower abdomen hurt all the time (may be due to gas) so that I cannot get good sleep anymore. Before surgery, I never woke up at night, now I wake up all the time and cannot go back to sleep.
    I have asked my heart doctor to take me off of the Crestor but he refuses even though it has caused my sugar to go up also. I never was diabetic, but thanks to crestor, now I am one.
    So, on my own, I have cut my pills in half and take 5 mg each day. My pains have not gone away but I really need to get off of Crestor altogether. However, I need the last push to make me comfortable to stop taking the Crestor.

  9. Joan

    curious about the diet mentioned above.

  10. crandreww

    Everyone….I am so sorry there are so many people here with these terrible statin effects…As a former Critical Care RN, I used to dole these statin drugs out like candy, and I mistakenly thought I knew everything about these drugs…Until I fell deathly ill, and now disabled for 10 years, beginning at 34 years old…
    We need to wake up, Cholesterol is an ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL nutrient in our body, it is present in every cell wall, in all neurons and plays a vital role for daily life. Cholesterol is so necessary, that we were designed to make it ourselves. The only reason we have been brainwashed to believe that cholesterol is the devil, is because a group of Pharma Cos, Physicians decided we need to measure cholesterol levels. And combined, the drug manufacturers, have made a fortune off of our “sheep” behavior. We need to think for ourselves, WE are THE ONLY ONES who have our best interest in mind….the only thing a statin will do for you, is to make a patient out of you….

  11. PP

    To counteract the muscle weakness of statins, take CQ-10; you have to adjust the dose according to that of the statin. It’s crazy that Doctors want to prescribe a statin when it’s the HDL that’s high! One doctor fired my husband cause he wouldn’t take a stating and it was the HDL that was pushing him slightly over 200!

    • Carol

      Here is a great book to read: The Great Cholesterol MYTH, by Jonny Bowden, PH.D.,C.N.S Author of the 150 Healthies Foods on Earth with Stephen Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C. the Sinatra Solution: Metabolic Cardiology. The forward is by Michael R Eades, M.D., and Maryl Dan Eades, M.D., Co-Authors of the Bestseller Protein Power…Why Lowering your Cholesterol won’t Prevent Heart Disease–And The Stain-Free Plan that will.

      Now, google how much money the big pharma has made on Statin’s….they have lower the levels that they want your cholesterol levels to –so that they can make more money putting you on the Statins. Humm–Who is behind all of this and why do the doc’s give you 5 minutes of their time and have the prescription pad in hand. I could say a lot more –but that’s enough for now.

  12. LLF RN

    As a retired RN (Critical Care Case Manager) I was prescribed Zocor when statins were new on the pharm market. What followed was nothing short of a nightmare!! Muscle & joint ‘implosion’ best describes the multiple diagnoses I was given by four different specialists. Am now hearing more horror stories that are being covered up. The cardiologist who prescribed Zocor in the first place, was heard talking to a colleague, (by me during an office visit) ‘the drug co. is sending me on an all expenses paid trip to Fla.’ This is a tip of the iceberg. Pushing statins is money driven. Multi million dollars!!

  13. James D

    I was overdosed with Zocor and as a consequence. I acquired vascular Parkinsonism, type 2 diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, and muscle pain. Good enough? My doctor pushed very hard. even though I have no heart problems.

  14. kz

    Years ago I went to an Endocrinologist for a thyroid check at a prominent university hospital. My cholesterol was high and he wanted me to take a statin drug. I refused and he called in an older woman who gave me all the reasons that I should take the drug. I still refused and she called in an older doctor that also explained the drug. I refused!!
    When the young Dr. came back in, he started to suggest a new appointment for the thyroid check then said no never mind. I never went back to the University hospital clinic for anything ever again. I can only surmise that they are taking kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies. I wonder how much of this is behind so many people on statins.

  15. HJL

    So what are the diet’s parameters?

  16. JayR

    Guggilipids will bring the cholesteral down. I used it. It worked well. It did not bring down the triglycerides.

  17. js

    I am a retired R.N. I have some knowledge of medications. Ten years ago, my doctor put me on Lipitor, a statin. I took it for a year, and then decided this drug was not safe. It left me with neuropathy (numbness) of my feet and I STILL have this neuropathy of the feet. I think that Lipitor is one of the most dangerous drugs on the market and the pharmaceutical companies have made a fortune from manufacturing it. I don’t know why, but most doctors PUSH this drug onto patients.
    I think back to the days of my MOTHER, who lived to be 90 years old, and she used to season her veggies with bacon grease, fry her meats, and had never even heard of the word “cholesterol”. I trained at Duke University in the 1940’s and at Duke Hospital at that time, no one had heard of “cholesterol”. A study on cholesterol was done in Denmark and they decided that getting your cholesterol level TOO LOW, could be dangerous!
    I have not taken a statin drug for many, many years, and at age 89, I am still alive!! and take no prescription medications and am still fairly active, still drive, etc.

  18. Phyllis M.

    JS–Good work! Could you share with us the general guidelines of the “strict diet” your naturopathic physician prescribed? Thanks.

  19. Don E

    I too was ordered to take statin when my bad cholesterol was elevated but good cholesterol was fine and my triglycerides were right on. Then I started to develop lumps in my arms and legs. Upon showing my arms and legs to my primary, he poo pooed them and blamed them on my internal makeup. I have reduced the statins to one per week and have had no mention by the primary about my cholesterol. Now I have added a regimen of honey and cinnamon every day in hot tea or water to let nature take care of the cholesterol.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: We haven’t seen any clinical data showing that honey and cinnamon will lower cholesterol, though cinnamon alone does the job in mice: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23297571

  20. GK

    I have a good friend in his mid sixties and trained and competed in mini-marathons and is in excellent health. His cholesterol was checked at around 130 but his doctor wanted it below 100 and put him on statins (I don’t remember the brand). Shortly after beginning treatment, he lost his stamina to jog and had to stop training. His doctor told him that the problem occurred in about 10% of the patients and was irreversible. He told me that if he had known the possible effects, he would have refused treatment.

  21. MO

    Some doctors think they know it all. I have been near death’s door twice in my life from a doctor knowing it all. You’re the patient, you don’t know anything is their attitude.

  22. CH

    I too have been on statins for 10 yrs. I have suffered with hip/joint pain ever since, attributed it to old age, I am now 73, but back in my 60’s I was so active. Could walk forever. Then it got so bad it actually pained me to walk from car to stores, pain in hip. hurt to stand in one place for long, always was looking for chair to sit. I told my doctor often about the pain, he said I had arthritis in hip, leg. Told me to keep on the statin. Finally 3 weeks ago I stopped taking them, due to articles I read and I have had no joint pain, I can walk around stores, no pain in my hip. I did not tell my doctor I stopped taking them either. I will now exercise and walk and dance since I can now MOVE!!!!

    • Chris

      I couldn’t agree more with all the people who are fed up with taking statins and experiencing constant aches and pains and exhaustion. I, too, used to be quite a walker about 20 years ago; but other problems, like arthritic feet, toes ect. stopped me from the walks, as well as being sensitive to chemicals. On the walks, I would get sick from smelling lawn pesticides and diesel fuels ect. I decided to just dance the old time rock and roll in the safety of my own kitchen. I could do this for hours; and felt great. Now, that I turned 70, I am experiencing lower back and hip arthritis. I have a wonderful back specialist doctor who sent me for therapy and it is working. About the statins—by coincidence, I asked my other doctor to let me try going off of them for about 8 weeks. Sure enough!–other than the lumbar area, I was pain free and my energy level increased to my delight. My endocrinologist, who monitors my cholesterol, tested my blood again; after being off of the statins for the 8 weeks. Yes, it did rise; and so he prescribed a newer drug, called Livalo. Sure enough! –within days, my whole body started up with the all-too familiar aches, pains and exhaustion. Even walking from the car to a building was exhausting. I understand that I will need to keep up on my arthritis therapy; and I have no problem doing that. I am making my own decision to stop the statins altogether. If I am correct, I should soon be able to, once again, dance in my kitchen for two hours, thus boosting my metabolism and helping my heart in a natural way. Just for the record, I’ve had two complete heart workups in the last 4 years and they were just fine. It sure looks like the doctors are getting kick backs from prescribing drugs. I look forward to other people’s opinions on this subject. There is an old saying, that goes something like this: “what good is living longer, if you are miserable?” I so agree. When a gal doesn’t even feel good enough to go out to lunch and shopping with friends, something is very wrong.

  23. JS

    I too was advised to take statins but my story is different. I gave in and took the smallest dose available for 6 months. The doctor was beaming, my cholesterol was at it’s lowest but low and behold my blood sugar mysteriously was at borderline diabetes level.
    I stopped the statin and visited a Naturopath for help. After review of several years of blood work and a long discussion including dietary information and lifestyle overview, she put me on a strict diet and a couple of supplements and asked for some specific blood work to be done in 4 months.
    I went back to my primary and told her what I was doing and she said she was “all for it” with the stipulation that I would follow up with her as well. She ordered the blood work as requested. That was almost a year ago.
    I have lost over 25 pounds and 5 inches in that time and my cholesterol is the lowest it has ever been without drugs and my blood sugar is also down. I am now used to the diet and plan to continue it for ever. Both of my doctors are pleased as well.

  24. Larry S.

    I was prescribed Lipitor following a double bypass at age 58. It came with moderate muscle pain and, after a few years, with significant weakness with my left arm. We switched to Crestor which brought immediate and significant muscular pain. Vytorin seemed to work well for awhile until I realized my legs were becoming weak leading to some stumbles and falls. My primary care physician put me on a non-statin, Welchol, and my cardiologist was comfortable with giving it a try.
    I have been on Welchol for about three years with no apparent side effects. My cholesterol levels are usually within limits. I am about 30 pounds overweight. I walk some and workout at the gym moderately and fairly regularly. I’m puzzled that I never see Welchol mentioned in statin or cholesterol discussions.

  25. crandreww

    I have to admit, I liked that your doc accepted your release…but a doctor firing a patient? My cousin was fired from his doc for not taking Lipitor (I convinced him to stop taking it)..getting away from that Drug Pusher was the best thing that happened to him…the only thing that statins will do for most anyone, is turn a healthy person into a patient…

  26. Vince G.

    At age 80 my father in-law was told he had to take Lipitor because his cholesteroal was 212. (200 is the recommended max?). He took it for one year. He started to get weakness in his right side. Up to that time he as was avid golfer and still played 18 holes every week or two.
    His weakness quickly spread and he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Doing some research I found it is almost unheard of for someone his age to get Lou Gerhrig’s. Looking into it further, I found that statins can cause muscle damage beyond a point which is irreversible. I also found that the symptoms of this damage can be indistinguishable from Lou Gerhig’s.
    The Mayo Clinic site had info about this as did other reputable sites. My father law’s weakness progressed rapidly over a few months and he needed a feeding tube. Shortly after that procedure he was given morphine (he had no pain), and haldol an anti hallucinogen (he was confused from the morphine). Soon after those drugs were given he was admitted to hospice where they kept giving him those drugs, then added more drugs and he died.
    In my opinion, the drug companies killed my father in law with statins then finished him off with haldol and morphine and other drugs. Doctors ignore patient after patient who complain about drug side effects. They do the bidding of the drug companies.

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