Potentially limiting their appeal even further, it now appears that statins, meant to lower your cholesterol, may blunt your desire to exercise and significantly limit the way your body responds to exercise.
Statins are one of the most commonly utilized medications. Their use is not without significant controversy. A US task force has been criticized for being too broad with regards to who should consider taking statins.
Cliniciains are arguing now if in fact cholesterol is actually the cause of heart disease…. many believe the main culprit is inflammation. It seems that many agree that certain patients benefit from statins, but perhaps their use should not be as broad as it currently is.
Recent studies have demonstrated that your aerobic fitness is a far better prognostic indicator of your cardiac risk than your cholesterol level. Not only that.. prominent cardiology scholars note that improving your aerobic cardiac fitness diminishes your overall risk for a cardiac event. That means that even if you are obese, or have diabtetes, if you improve your aerobic cardiac fitness, your risk is lower than a friend with the same issues, but a poorer fitness level.
To the 20-25% of you with very significant muscle pain due to the statins you are taking, the choice of whether or not to continue on your statin is very difficult. Now it is going to be even harder. In a recent study in mice reasearchers found that mice who were given a statin were less likely to exercise and demonstrated less strength than the mice who did not receive the statin.
When you exercise your muscles grow, and your muscles become more efficient. They build little factories inside the muscle cells to better manage oxygen and produce energy. Sadly, it appears that the statin group of medications limited this response in mice. That means that the group of mice who were given the statin did not show and increase in the size of their muscle cells after a period of exercise.
So.. you are trying to improve your health. You are trying to decrease your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Some doctors think that you should be on a statin if you have even one cardiac risk factor. Others are far more leary about statins. They do not recommend them routinely. The jury is still out. But now we have some early evidence that the very medications we are taking to decrease our risk of dying might limit our ability to exercise which we are doing to limit our chance of dying. Quite the conundrum.
Now… this latest study was in mice. Although humans might demonstrate the same response I am not recommending that you stop taking your statins before you have a nice long chat with your cardiologist about the risks and potential benefits of that decision.
Remember… I am an Orthopedic Surgeon… not a Cardiologist. You should NOT stop taking a medication recommended by your Cardiologist until you have a long discussion with them and they agree to change your medications around.