Statins: How the drug prevents heart attacks and strokes
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Statins are a group of medicines that can help lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. LDL cholesterol is a fatty substance that collects on the inside of your arteries – it is a precursor to heart disease. Statins help to prevent cardiovascular complications by reducing the production of LDL cholesterol inside the liver.
Taking statins have therefore had an incalculable impact on millions of lives but taking them is not without its risks.
Like all medicines, statins can cause side effects, and some are serious.
“Occasionally, statin use could cause an increase in the level of enzymes that signal liver inflammation,” warns the Mayo Clinic.
According to the health body, you should contact your doctor immediately if you have dark-coloured urine.
Other signs of liver damage include:
- Unusual fatigue or weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in your upper abdomen
- Dark-coloured urine, or yellowing of your skin or eyes.
“Although liver problems are rare, your doctor may order a liver enzyme test before or shortly after you begin to take a statin,” adds the Mayo Clinic.
It is worth pointing out that the risks of any side effects also have to be balanced against the benefits of preventing serious problems.
A review of scientific studies into the effectiveness of statins found around one in every 50 people who take the medicine for five years will avoid a serious event, such as a heart attack or stroke, as a result.
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How to lower cholesterol without statins
You can also lower cholesterol naturally by making healthy lifestyle changes.
Eating a healthy diet and doing regular exercise can help lower the level of cholesterol in your blood.
In regards to the former, the most important dietary tip is to cut back on foods containing saturated fat.
“Eating too many foods high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood,” warns the NHS.
Foods high in saturated fat include meat pies, sausages and fatty cuts of meat and butter.
Instead, you should opt for foods containing unsaturated fat, which can actually help reduce cholesterol levels, says the NHS.
- Oily fish – such as mackerel and salmon
- Nuts – such as almonds and cashews
- Seeds – such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
When it comes to unsaturated fat, adhering to a Mediterranean diet covers most bases.
The Mediterranean diet varies by country and region, so it has a range of definitions.
But in general, it’s high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.
It usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods.
The Mediterranean diet has been linked with good health, including a healthier heart.
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