Are Statins Bad? Let’s Take a Closer Look
We all want the best for our health. But sometimes it’s hard to agree on how to get there. (Just step into a room of vegans and paleo die-hards, and stand in the crossfire!) When it comes to statins, professional opinions and even the research, itself, can be rather polarizing. Some say statins are bad and should be avoided at all costs. Others say that statins are a great way for managing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and should be used for reducing risk of heart attack and stroke.
So, who’s right?
Let’s take a closer look at the issue…
What Are Statins?
Statins are a type of drug that inhibit the production of HMG CoA Reductase, an enzyme the liver relies on for the production of cholesterol. Common statins you may have heard of include:
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- Fluvastatin (Lescol XL)
- Lovastatin (Altoprev)
- Pitavastatin (Livalo)
- Pravastatin (Pravachol)
- Rosuvastatin (Crestor, Ezallor)
- Simvastatin (Zocor, FloLipid)
If you have high cholesterol and your doctor is concerned about your risk for stroke or heart attack, then you may have been prescribed one of these statins.
Risks Associated With Statins
Let’s explore some of the common risks, side effects (and misconceptions!) surrounding statins.
- Muscle Soreness: One of the most common complaints heard from patients on statins is muscle soreness or fatigue. While there certainly are legitimate claims of muscle soreness, researchers have noticed something called a “nocebo” effect with regards to this side effect. A nocebo effect occurs when patients given a placebo in a clinical trial report a negative side effect associated with the actual drug (which they aren’t receiving) because they expect it. While the risk of developing muscle pain is somewhere around five percent or less, as many as 30 percent of people taking a placebo report muscle fatigue! This outcome suggests that many cases of muscle soreness associated with statin use may not actually be caused by statins.
- Liver Damage: Statin use interferes with normal liver function. Occasionally, there could be an increase in the production of a certain enzyme that signals liver inflammation. When this occurs at a low level, many people are fine to continue their use of statins. If the jump in enzyme levels is severe, then your doctor may advise quitting statin use in order to avoid liver damage.
- Elevated Blood Sugar Levels (sometimes Type 2 Diabetes): In some people taking statins, blood sugar may increase; in some of those cases, the increase in blood sugar levels could be significant enough to cause type 2 diabetes. Of course, patients who already have type 2 diabetes may be at a higher risk for heart attack. The benefit of added heart protection may outweigh the minimal increase in blood sugar level that’s caused by a statin.
- Memory Loss & Confusion: There is some evidence that statin use may cause certain neurological problems, such as memory loss and confusion. If you do experience these side effects, the good news is that the damage is not permanent and is reversed once statin use is stopped. Interestingly enough, there are some studies that suggest statin use can actually have cognitive benefits for some patients with dementia.
So, are statins good or bad? For many of the 30 percent of American adults taking statins, the benefits outweigh the risks and side effects. For others, sustained statin use is simply not practical.
As always, it’s ideal if you are able to lower your LDL cholesterol through dietary, exercise, and lifestyle changes. If this is not possible, talk with your doctor about whether or not statins are right for you.
Schedule Your Appointment With an Internal Medicine Provider
Do you want to learn more about statins and high cholesterol? Schedule an appointment with your internal medicine provider at St. Thomas Medical Group in Nashville for more information. Call +1 (615) 297-2700 today.
Teen Suicide Rates on the Rise – What YOU Can Do
In June 2019, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that teen suicide rates reached the highest levels since 2000. Key statistics include:
- In 2017, there was a 21 percent increase from the previous year in boys ages 15-19 dying by suicide.
- Girls ages 15-19 experienced an eight percent increase in the same period.
- 5,016 of the 6,241 teenagers and young adults who died by suicide in 2017 were male.
- From 2008 to 2015, there were 115,856 emergency department visits for suicide ideation or attempts among young people.
Teen Suicide Rate on the Rise in Tennessee
Earlier this year, the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) reported “a more than 24% increase in child suicide deaths from ages 10 to 17.” There were 41 deaths in 2016 and 51 deaths in 2017 – a significant increase from 13 deaths in 2005.
We’ve written in the past about the opioid crisis in Tennessee. In 2016, there were 1,186 opioid-related overdose deaths in Tennessee. That same year, however, there were 1,110 recorded suicide deaths in the state, reports TSPN. While the opioid crisis gets significant media attention (and rightfully so), it’s worth noting that our state’s suicide crisis is just as serious.
So, What Can You Do?
As parents, we wish our children all the health and happiness. Learning to recognize the warning signs of suicide is a critical way in which you can better protect your child.
Let’s talk prevention. After all, suicide is one of the leading causes of preventable death among teens.
Warning Signs of Teen Suicide
- Talking about suicide or death
- Preoccupation with death
- Loss of interest in school or activities
- Social withdrawal
- Impulsive or risky behavior
- Feeling hopeless
- Alcohol and/or drug abuse
- Giving away prized possessions
Increased Risk Factors
Teens may be at an increased risk for suicide if they have these factors in their lives:
- Perfectionist tendency
- Learning disability
- Being LGBTQ
- Having low self-esteem
- Having few or no friends
- Exposure to violence, abuse, or neglect
- History of self-harm
The Jason Foundation Parent Resource Program offers an excellent “Do’s and Don’ts” Resource for parents who have observed suicide risk factors in their child. Here is a brief summary of the foundation’s recommendations:
- Remain calm. Your calmness can create an environment that allows your child to more comfortably reach out and talk.
- Be prepared to talk. Communication is critical. Listen, ask questions, and don’t minimize or dismiss issues.
- Be prepared to act. Know how to remove dangerous items, call 911, and get help for your child.
- Don’t play the hero. You don’t have to do this alone. Get the support of others.
- Don’t promise confidentiality. And if you do, recognize that you may not be able to keep this promise. Breaking a promise is not as important as saving a life.
- Don’t think: “Not my child.” Suicide doesn’t only happen to “dysfunctional families” or those with histories. This condition reaches beyond racial, economic, social and ethnic lines.
For 24/7 help, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at +1 (800) 273-TALK(8255).
Help Is Available. See Your Family Doctor in Nashville.
Your family doctor at St. Thomas Medical Group’s Children & Adults Department is here to help, support, and treat you and your children. In some cases, teens may be more comfortable talking with a trusted medical professional about certain issues than with their friends or parents. To learn more about how we may be able to help – or to schedule an appointment – call +1 (615) 301-7040. You can also make an appointment online.
Do I Have Sleep Apnea?
If you frequently feel tired or restless, despite getting a full night’s sleep, you could be one of the 22 million Americans who suffers from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a widespread and dangerous sleep disorder that occurs when the brain fails to receive sufficient oxygen. As a result, individuals with sleep apnea may snore and wake up frequently – even hundreds of times – throughout the night. This is the equivalent of the brain sending out the emergency signal, jolting the sleeper awake for a gasp of oxygen!
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
The most common form of sleep apnea is known as “obstructive sleep apnea.” This occurs when the breath passageway is physically blocked, most commonly due to tissue in the back of the throat collapsing and/or the tongue falling back in the throat.
Not only does obstructive sleep apnea result in daytime drowsiness and low quality of sleep; low oxygen levels can lead to many other health problems, including high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and depression.
Sleep Apnea Help Is Available… Right Here In Nashville
Sleep and pulmonary specialists at St. Thomas Medical Group treat patients from all over Middle Tennessee for sleep apnea. While only a doctor can diagnose sleep apnea, if you or a loved one struggles with daytime sleepiness or poor quality of sleep, you may wish to begin the process of seeking evaluation and treatment by reviewing these statements…
You Might Have Sleep Apnea If You Say…
- “I’m tired all the time.” Daytime sleepiness can be one of the tell-tale signs of sleep apnea. Even if you’re getting a full eight hours of sleep, the quality may be very poor with sleep apnea. Because sleep apnea can occur during deep sleep, you may wake up many times and not even realize it – much less remember in the morning.
- “I wake up with headaches.” or “I always have headaches.” When your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, blood vessels may dilate, causing headaches. If you wake up with a headache or frequently have headaches during the day, sleep apnea may be to blame.
- “I snore.” Maybe you don’t make this statement… but your significant other will gladly say it for you! Snoring is a classic symptom of sleep apnea. Snoring occurs when collapsed tissues vibrate against one another, as is the case with patients who have obstructive sleep apnea. While occasional or light snoring may not be anything to worry about, chronic or heavy snoring may be something you want to discuss with your primary care doctor or a pulmonary specialist.
- “I have high blood pressure.” When oxygen levels are low, the body may restrict blood vessels, causing blood pressure to rapidly rise. In patients who have sleep apnea, this may occur dozens or even hundreds of times throughout the night. Eventually, your body may get used to this jolt in blood pressure, resulting in high blood pressure during waking hours, as well.
Free Resources from The American Sleep Apnea Association
The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) recommends these three tests for anyone who is concerned that they may have sleep apnea:
- The ASAA’s own Snore Score quiz. Six simple questions that may help evaluate symptoms.
- Epworth Sleepiness Scale. This test asks how likely a patient is to doze off in certain circumstances.
- Berlin Questionnaire. Ten questions in three categories.
<h2>See a Sleep Specialist In Nashville</h2>
Would you like to see a sleep specialist at St. Thomas Medical Group for an evaluation? Our sleep and pulmonary specialists work with patients experiencing a wide range of sleep disorders. Schedule an appointment online or call +1 (615) 964-5864.