A decade ago, government studies showed that about 50% of men and 35% of women in the U.S. between the ages of 65 and 74 used statin drugs. Even in the 46 – 64 age group, about 1 in 5 men and women were taking a statin. Data hasn’t been gathered as religiously of late, but I see no reason to think that statin use is down. I would imagine that just about every adult in the U.S. knows the names Lipitor and Crestor. After all, what easier way to beat heart disease is there than simply taking a pill? Just take one of these magic pills per day and – poof! – heart disease is just a memory, right? The data isn’t quite that clear that statin use has reduced deaths from heart disease. Some studies say they do the job, while other studies seem to indicate that other factors are just as – or more – important.
Should you be taking a statin? Some independent researchers and medical associations think that certain people should consider drug therapy: people who already have cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, strokes caused by blockages in a blood vessel, mini-strokes, also known as transient ischemic attacks, peripheral artery disease, prior surgery to open or replace coronary arteries, LDL levels of 190 mg/dL or higher, diabetes and an LDL level of 70 mg/dL or above, and anyone else with a family history of heart disease – especially with an onset before 55 in men or 65 in women and have other risk factors along with an LDL above 100. Other risk factors include smoking, low exercise, high blood pressure, obesity and poor stress management.
Let’s say you have several of these risk factors and you decide that one of these statins is the right approach. You’ll get plenty of propaganda about the benefits of statins, so let’s talk about some of their negative effects.
The most important negative effects of statin drugs are muscle soreness and memory loss, along with headaches and trouble sleeping (and of course, sleeping problems also contribute to memory loss).
Some of these negative effects are tied to the way that statins lower a biochemical you might know as CoQ-10. CoQ-10, or coenzyme Q-10, is manufactured naturally by our bodies but, like most biochemicals, it tends to decrease with age. CoQ-10 is used in the body’s energy production pathways and is also a powerful antioxidant. Less than ideal levels of CoQ-10 have been implicated in a long list of health problems, including but not limited to:
- heart disease
- kidney disease
- high blood pressure
- age-related macular degeneration
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- many cancers, including breast, prostate, lung, pancrease, colon, kidney cancers, and cancers of the head and neck
- Type II diabetes
- Parkinson’s disease
This makes sense because, as mentioned, CoQ-10 is part of basic energy pathways and, as such, has high concetrations in the heart, kidneys and liver. CoQ-10 production may be lower in some people due to genetic factors and also due to age factors, but luckily for us it’s easily supplemented. Anybody interested in disease prevention would be wise to add increasing amounts of CoQ-10 to their supplement regimen as they age.
As noted above, interference with CoQ-10 production is a side effect of statin use. The simple solution? Supplement with CoQ-10 if you’re taking a statin. This additional CoQ-10 doesn’t appear to interfere with the goal of the statin, i.e. lowering lipids such as LDL.
This is so simple that it seems negligent to me that a doctor would prescribe a statin without clear instructions to supplement with CoQ-10.
If you experience even a little bit of muscle soreness or a tiny bit of cognitive decline with statin use, you are not even close to getting enough CoQ-10. But how much is enough? The doses in the literature run from 50 to about 6,000mg per day. I am including a link to a Mayo Clinic summary of research recommendations for different conditions. To save a step, if you are taking a statin, a typical dose is 300mg divided into three 100mg doses throughout the day. If you also have conditions such as Alzheimer’s, ALS or other serious diseases, 300mg won’t be enough.
In doing your own research, you might see some references to idebenone. This is a synthetic CoQ-10 that we have in stock and use ourselves, but it isn’t listed on our website at this time (phone orders only).
You can probably find some “cheap” sources of CoQ-10, but some random samplings of these have found that these cheaper supplements have virtually none of the active ingredient you thought you were paying for. At OVitaminPro, we don’t offer those “bargains,” since we want you to get something out of the supplements you’re taking. A couple of brands that we personally use are Karuna CoQ-10 100mg and DaVinci Coenzyme Q10 100mg.
Is there a downside to CoQ-10 use? It seems to be rare, but some have reported stomach upset and diabetics might have to adjust their meds to compensate for drops in blood sugar. It can also interact with some medications, including beta-blockers, some anti-depressants and chemotherapy drugs. You might need to change the amount of statins you take if you’re also taking CoQ-10. If you are taking a red yeast rice product (like CholestGenix), you should also consider supplementing with CoQ-10.