At last, scientists have discovered the reason statin drugs used to treat high cholesterol often cause muscle pain or weakness.
According to research recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, this class of drugs affects the skeletal muscles, but not the heart muscle.
"That is because muscles contract when they release calcium from their cells, and statins cause the irregular release of calcium," Dr. Gabe Mirkin, M.D., author of "The Healthy Heart Miracle," tells Newsmax. "Some people can tolerate these leaks, but for others the statin-caused leaks interfere with normal muscle contraction. And that is what produces pain."
This same action does not apply to the heart muscle, which has its own special set of "gatekeeper proteins" that regulate calcium movement.
According to Mirkin, this revolutionary study reveals that while most people will not suffer muscle damage from using statin drugs, there are some who may be genetically or environmentally programmed to be more susceptible.
"The authors of the study found that a regular moderate exercise program can help prevent the muscle changes that cause calcium leaks. But a very intense program such as one performed by highly competitive athletes can lead to severe muscle damage," says the expert.
Mirkin notes that while statins may remain the choice of many doctors and patients for preventing heart attacks, lifestyle changes can be equally effective.
"If your LDL cholesterol is above 100 or you have other risk factors for a heart attack, most guidelines suggest you take statin drugs," says Mirkin. "However, remember that this class of drugs comes with a price. They can make your muscles hurt and interfere with your ability to exercise."
Some of the lifestyle changes Mirkin recommends are:
- Lose weight if necessary.
- Exercise daily.
- Avoid smoking and avoid or restrict alcohol.
- Avoid sugar-laden foods, including all sugary drinks like fruit juices, as well as red meat, processed foods, and fried foods.
- Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, whole grains, and seeds.
- Keep blood levels of vitamin D above 20 ng/mL, as studies have found that low levels of this vitamin is associated with muscle pain.
Dr. Chauncey Crandall, M.D., estimates that at least 10% of people who take statin drugs experience muscle pain. He says that in clinical trials, adding coenzyme Q10 can decrease the likelihood of this type of muscle pain from occurring, or at least reduce its severity.
"In addition, CoQ10 supplementation has been shown to decrease oxidation, which is the process that can lead to hardening of the arteries," notes Crandall, who recommends that his patients on statin drugs take between 200 mg and 400 mg of CoQ10 daily.
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