Statin medications are frequently prescribed to lower cholesterol levels, but a new study suggests that many people who get prescriptions for these drugs won’t really benefit from them. Research has shown that medicines like atorvastatin and simvastatin can reduce the chance of a repeat heart attack. It is not clear, though, that they prevent initial heart attacks in otherwise healthy people who simply have high cholesterol. Nonetheless, it seems that many people taking statins are in that category.

Researchers at the University of Michigan sent surveys to doctors who see patients with high cholesterol. Family practice doctors, cardiologists and internists answered questions about hypothetical patients without heart disease in the survey. Nearly three fourths of these physicians said they would prescribe a statin despite the test patients’ low risk of heart disease. The investigators conclude that doctors may be too focused on LDL cholesterol numbers and not on patients’ overall cardiovascular risks when prescribing statin-type drugs.

[JAMA Internal Medicine, online, March 11, 2013]

We have more information about controlling cholesterol without drugs, as well as the benefits and risks of a variety of cholesterol-lowering medications in our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health. It is one of our most popular guides.

If statin medications caused no side effects, we would worry less about them being prescribed for people who don’t need them. But many people find that statins affect their muscles, their memory or their sex life and reduce their quality of life.

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  1. fbl

    MV, I agree with you about dropping medication stuff. I suspect your body is like mine-very contrary. What I have found is that nutrients work best for me. Be very careful when you drop the meds. Call you pharmacist for guidance.
    Have you ever tried a low carbo type of diet? My gut feeling is that it would suit you better than anything else. Triglycerides can’t be high if your system isn’t getting anything that it can make sugars from. Your cholesterol number is perfect.
    Are you buying meats that are organic? Some people are sensitive to regular meats because of all the crap the animals are fed. Your body might be reacting as well.
    Take a look at the oils you are using. When we eliminated all the grocery store oils, other than Extra Virgin Olive Oil, my hubby’s numbers started dropping. We use organic coconut and palm oils, bacon drippings from organic bacon and avocado or nut oils to make our mayonnaise.
    I make a daily treat of a hot chocolate made with coconut oil, cocoa powder, stevia, boiling water and then cream. When you mix the oil with the cocoa powder it emulsifies it and then it mixes well. Does wonders for all the numbers including my weight.


    I was started on statins at age 50 with a TOTAL cholesterol of 150. I’m now 76 years old. Shortly after I started on the first of many types of statins, my sexual urges vanished. It was suggested that perhaps my self image was poor! This had not been my problem, but the suggestion concerned me and I started reading what I could find on female “dysfunction”; not much available until testosterone were being discussed for use by women’s libido.
    Sadly, my husband had, by this time, had undergone radical prostate surgery leaving him impotent…and I was 56 years old. By this time I was suffering onset insomnia, muscle aches, cramps in my feet, and rapidly developing arthritis. My cholesterol continued to be “uncontrolled” and I was being treated for elevated blood pressure.
    I took some control of my health issues out of pain and frustration. I hired a personal trainer and worked out 3xs weekly for 18 months, then had both arthritic knees completely replaced. I sought and tried many sleep techniques, to no avail.
    Then I studied the side effects of the various medications I was now on. Most common, but low in the symptoms’ list, was insomnia. The next common problem was inflamation of various types. A medical emergency called for a brain scan and a heart cath, both were normal at age 73. My husband died two years ago. I had been his care giver for several years and my insomnia was just plain dangerous and life altering. I was getting nowhere with standard medical treatment.
    I decided that, perhaps, I should be seeing a geriatrics specialist…could I be over-medicated? This I did, and she ran the usual test to see where I was at at age 76. My total cholesterol is 180 with LDL slightly elevated. All else was fine except for elevated triglicerides, a “forever” problem. I know I’m being long-winded, but all is said to be ended with this: during all these periods of my life, I have felt like I am truly healthy. I am upbeat and have now decided to celebrate my 77th birthday by weaning myself off the latest statin, fenofibrate; continue my exercise and dietary regimens as they make me feel good! I go to bed when I’m sleepy. I read and watch tv in bed, if I wish. I eat a couple of eggs a week. When I require a bread spread, it is butter. I missed one item in an administrated mental test for the aged…three words…table, penny, apple. I will go to grave remembering “penny” now. And who knows, my weight may finally drop and my blood pressure will come down. But I won’t be hurting so much, sleeping better and feel in control of my well being!

  3. MV

    My total cholesterol was 237 triglycerides 211 HDL 59 LDL 143.
    Lovaza reduced triglycerides by 20 points but raised LDL by 30 so I was prescribed Niaspan. LDL went down 10 (no change in triglycerides) but fasting blood sugar is now near pre-diabetes levels. Now my doctor wants to give me something for the elevated blood sugar.
    Her own dietician told me my diet was as good or better than what she recommends. She made one suggestion – for me to eat more nuts – I have a death allergy to tree nuts so that’s not possible.
    I think I’ll take my chances and stop everything as I don’t want to have to take yet another drug if the blood sugar medication raises yet another lab item.
    Antibiotics are the only types of medications that do not cause opposite effects on me. Ambien for sleep and tramadol for pain both kept me awake for 3 days before I finally fell asleep. BP medication kept my BP at 125/80 range – when I stopped taking it my BP dropped to 90/60 and has not gone over 110/70 in 3 years.
    Any suggestions? I get as much exercise as I possibly can – walked 5 marathons, 3 1/2 marathons, do 150 mile bike rides for charity…

  4. zqicvs

    In October 2012, my family doctor told me I had high cholesterol ( total cholesterol : 6.9 mmol/l, HDL-cholesterol : 1.16 mmol/l, LDL-cholesterol 4.6 mmol/l, Triglycerides : 1.32 mmol/l. Chol / HDL 5.9 ) and immediately wanted to prescribe a statin drug, in spite of the fact that I have been diagnosed with idiopathic neuropathy.
    I refuse to take anti epileptic or anti depressant drugs because of the side effects. I am not diabetic, do not suffer from epilepsy nor am I depressed. I understand that so far there has not been any study on the long term effect of anti-epileptic drugs on non-epileptic brain. For the moment, I suffer from numbness in the feet and occasionally some burning, however this does not stop me from living an active life.
    A friend suggested I take a French product called STATICONCEPT from Laboratoires FENIOUX as treatment for the high cholesterol. It lowers cholesterol and many people have had good cholesterol results from taking it . STATICONCEPT contains red rice yeast, extract of sugar cane, 60% policosanol and gelatin. Since this product does contains a natural statin, I am afraid that it might cause the neuropathy to progress, as stains can cause neuropathy.
    Does anyone know of a natural treatment for neuropathy ? My vitamin B12 level is high (668 pmol/l). Selenium level is 245.0 which is high and from my research can cause neuropathy. I have cut back on eating nuts, especially Brazil nuts. I have heard that R- Alpha Lipoic acid is very effective in treating neuropathy. I can buy R-alpha lipoic acid with L carnitine but not just R-Alpha Lipoic Acid. I am using diet to lower cholesterol, eating fruits and vegetables and taking 40 grams of psyllium daily. I will go to my doctor for complete blood work in 3 months.
    Can anyone advise on natural treatment for neuropathy symptoms and high cholesterol ?

  5. James K.

    I would go with her the doctor and advocate for her. I think you should go over each medication and make sure that each one is really necessary. Each medication also has it side effect. Can you share how old is your wife, and why she is taking this many medications?

  6. fbl

    Only those with the genetic hyperglycemia need statins. They won’t live long enough to evidence the sad effects of the statins anyway.
    Our nursing homes will be stuffed with statin users. They are destroying people’s brains.

  7. Mary D.

    I’m one of the people that was crippled by statins. I try to live with the ravages daily. It attacked the tendons in my forearms and lower legs. If it’s going to attack your Achilles tendons, it will do it within 9 months of starting it. For me that was 7 months and 2 weeks. My dentist has a male patient in his late 40s that was put on a walker after taking this for a few months. They even have a name for it- Statin Toxicity- It causes a life of spasms, cramps, killing sensation in your feet-and people on statin fall more, also, nausea-vertigo.
    I can’t walk 2 blocks now. The fatigue is outstanding. In this article it didn’t say that it causes acute kidney problems and people pee very dark or black. These people usually end up on dialysis in 5 years. I had convulsions. My feet and legs and feet have peripheral neuropathy. It used to be severe, but I found a doctor that also suffers from this, and he had me do hamstring stretches followed by ice packs-That takes a big chunk out of my day-where I sit and simmer with resentment that I was stupid enough to take it. My son is a disabled vet-100%-spinal injury and PTSD-and the doctor told me that I was selfish-I should take Simvastatin to care for my son in the future. My son ended up assisting me in getting to the bath room and feeding me.
    There are so many ways this ruined my life-It causes sinus drainage-it makes for sores on the face, in the mouth. I get those-they aren’t zits-I’m just so tired.

  8. Lloyd S.

    My wife has been prescribed statin drugs for cholesterol, her cholesterol is not that high, it runs around 215 and her HDL is in a very good range. My problem is why was it prescribed? It would seem to me that trying to control her cholesterol through diet and exercise would be safer.
    The doctor did not even suggest any other methods that could help. My wife is also one of those people that will take anything the doctor tells her to with out ever checking it out believing that the doctor always knows best. I don’t think she should argue with her doctor but should at least consider different opinions and options.
    Her health is not great but I am worried about how her doctor is always giving more and more pills to take, she now has over 12 prescriptions to fill every month, is that safe.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: We don’t want to second-guess your wife’s doctor. If she has type 2 diabetes, a statin might be appropriate even if her cholesterol’s not really high. You can’t make her discuss this with her doctor, but that would be best. Adding drug after drug really increases the possibility for interactions and side effects.

  9. PWK

    I would appreciate comments on any research concerning the usefulness of cholesterol-lowering medications as a preventive treatment for generalized arterial disease that presents late in life as vascular dementia.

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