Clear and Present Dangers of Cholesterol Lowering Drugs

You probably know by now that top cholesterol drugs Vytorin and Zetia have been proven to have no benefits, doctors and patients have to rely on older lowering cholesterol drugs such as statins. Regardless of which drugs you take to lower cholesterol, there may be some potential side effects that need your attention. There are definitely other more effective and safer ways available for you to lower cholesterol levels without the use of such drugs.

When your medical practitioner tells you that you have high cholesterol levels, it means that your ratio of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) to High Density Liporprotein (HDL) is high. High cholesterol level is linked to higher risk of heart disease and stroke. However, before you consider taking any cholesterol lowering drugs you should also take into account the following:

a. Lifestyle – are you on high fat diet, drinks, smoke and stay up late at night

b. Blood pressure – do you have family history of hypertension

c. Diabetes – are you diabetic or have family history of diabetes

d. Weight – are you over weight

e. Age – which age group do you belong?

f. Cholesterol – do you have family history of high cholesterol levels?

g. Vascular disease – are you suffering from any form of vascular disease like the narrowing of arteries

If your only problem is high cholesterol levels, then you should evaluate the need for cholesterol lowering drugs because this condition can be managed and controlled by changing your lifestyle – most importantly taking lower cholesterol diets and exercise routine.

Although the drug that you are prescribed with may help you lower cholesterol, however, it does not mean that you can stop taking it once your cholesterol level has lowered. This happens because such cholesterol lowering drug blocks an enzyme that is responsible for making cholesterol in the liver. (The name of this enzyme is hydroxy-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase or HMG-CoA reductase in short).

Taking cholesterol lowering drugs has 3 potentially serious side effects:

1. Liver damage

Cholesterol lowering drugs like statins can cause an increase in liver enzymes. If the increase in enzymes production is severe, and when left uncheck, can leave to permanent liver damage.

The other popular prescription drug, Zetia is also in the limelight lately; its effectiveness and the long term impact on the health of the consumer are now in question. Zetia, together with Vytorin, have been found to have no benefits to lower cholesterol. The New England Journal of Medicine now recommends to forgo taking Vytorin and Zetia unless older cholesterol lowering drugs cannot lower cholesterol levels.

In fact, as far back as in 2005 regulators in Australia and Canada have issued warning about the potential danger of Zetia. It can cause hepatitis, pancreatitis and depression.

Liver problem can develop without symptoms, thus if you are on statins it is advisable to go a liver function test periodically.

2. Muscle problems

The most common cholesterol lowering drugs statins can cause muscle pain, muscle weakness and in severe cases causes muscle cells to breakdown (rhabdomyolysis). When this happen a protein called myoglobin is released and this protein can damage your kidneys.

The risk of rhabdomyolysis also increases when statins is taken with certain drugs like antifungal medications, nefazodone (Serzone), gemfibrozil, erythromycin (Erythrocin), cyclosporine and niacin.

While most people who experience muscle pain will return to normal after discontinuing statin use, some susceptible individuals suffer permanent muscle damage from statin use. If you have a new muscle ache or tenderness after taking statins it is advisable to check with your doctor.

3. Memory Loss

Some people who want to lower cholesterol and took the statin drugs experience memory loss and an inability to concentrate. They feel that they are developing Alzheimer’s disease when taking statin drugs. In extreme cases, the memory loss seems to be amnesia that lasts for 6 to 12 hours. These types of problems are known as cognitive defects.

Fortunately most people return to normal after they stopped taking the statin drugs. The time to recovery appears to be related to the amount of time before the cognitive symptoms appeared. In other words, the longer it took for the symptoms to appear, the longer it took for the person to recover. However, a small group may continue to suffer with cognitive problems, perhaps indefinitely.

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