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How To Get Off Statins

Getting off statins is easy. Stop swallowing the pill. If you’re not in a potentially high-risk group (as described below) and your doc prescribed a statin to get your cholesterol down a bit, you won’t have a heart attack or a stroke that day or week or probably that decade.

There’s no “statin withdrawal” and you weren’t born with a statin deficiency.

In fact, many of you quitting statins will probably start feeling better in just a couple weeks. I admit “better” is rather vague, but perhaps you’re so used to having achy muscles, fatigue, and brain fog that you think these symptoms are normal.

Does my recommendation to stop taking your statin sound glib, a bit cavalier? After all, when you were handed the prescription you were told something like “You must take this every day or you’ll get a stroke or heart attack.” And now I come along suggesting that for most of you statins are simply not necessary…provided you’re willing to take charge of your health.

A new verb: deprescribing
The statin controversy is quite lively among physicians themselves. John Mandrola, MD, a cardiac electrophysiologist from Louisville, wrote a short blog post on the physician-only portion of Medscape expressing his doubts about statins. You can’t link to his piece without a password, but do have a look at Dr. Mandrola’s very good website and especially at this piece, “To Deprescribe…Adding a New Verb to the Language of Doctoring.”

Dr. Mandrola’s Medscape post received an astonishing 631 physician comments, most of which supported his position, namely that the latest guidelines from the American College of Cardiology (ACC) on statin prescribing were not only unrealistic, but potentially dangerous.

There are four guidelines regarding who should take statins. Many physicians in the US and most in Europe agree with the first two, partially with the third, and not at all with the fourth (my comments in italics):

  1. People 40 to 70 with Type 1 or 2 diabetes. This group has an increased risk for heart disease, including heart attack, and taking statins has been shown to reduce this risk. (However, diabetes is a potentially reversible condition with weight loss and exercise, and once the diabetes has been reversed it is possible to go off statins.) 
  2. People with a history of a cardiovascular “event” such as heart attack, stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), angina, or peripheral artery disease (statins definitely reduce the chances for a second such event).
  3. People 21 or older with a very high level of bad cholesterol–LDL 190 mg/dl or higher. (Even though the high cholesterol may be genetic rather than lifestyle-induced, you needn’t capitulate entirely to your genes. Healthful eating, weight reduction, and exercise can bring down high cholesterol of any kind, including genetic. If, after several months of lifestyle changes, your cholesterol remains stuck in a danger zone, then taking a statin is reasonable, especially if along with genetic high cholesterol you also have a genetic premature early death risk.)
  4. People 40 to 75 with no cardiovascular disease, a (bad cholesterol) LDL of 70 mg/dl or higher, and who have a 7.5% or greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke within 10 years (the 7.5% or higher is predicated primarily on reversible  lifestyle factors—see more below).

Note: the ACC does acknowledge that beyond age 75, there is no significant data showing any heart disease prevention benefit from statins.

Lifestyle…again
It’s Number 4 that caused a great deal of eyebrow raising among doctors. The risk factors that would put a person in the 7.5% category include genetic susceptibility, yes, but also smoking, obesity (especially belly fat), inactivity, high blood pressure, and a significant family history of early heart disease. When these factors are combined with the newly established LDL of 70 mg/dL, it’s estimated that in the US alone the number of current statin users would increase from 12.8 million to 48 million.

If you’ve been following the news on bad cholesterol over the years, it used to be worrisome when LDL was higher than 100 mg/dL. According to the ACC guidelines, 36 million more people now need statins to hit that glorious 70 mg/dL. That means one adult in three would be taking statins, as many as one billion statin users worldwide, and total statin sales at $1 trillion a year.

But wait a minute. Except for the genetic susceptibility to early heart disease, every one of those factors that would place someone in the 7.5% risk group is reversible with lifestyle modification. And, most importantly, lifestyle changes will help even if you’re genetically predisposed to heart disease. Also, the newly available Corus-CAD test (which I discussed in a previous Health Tip) can confirm or refute your personal genetic susceptibility. If you’re concerned about your susceptibility to heart disease, I do suggest the Corus-CAD.  It might be a good idea to get this test if you’re in that LDL group with 190 mg/dL or higher.

With all this in mind, read these aloud.

  • Lifestyle beats statins every time. A healthy lifestyle is the foundation of cardiovascular health, period. There has never been a study undertaken to prove that statins are superior to lifestyle changes, and you can probably guess why: lifestyle would win hands down.
  • Preventable heart attacks. A recent Swedish study proved that four out of five heart attacks in men were completely preventable. When 20,721 men agreed to stop smoking, eat healthfully, lose weight (belly fat, people), and reduce alcohol, after ten years there was an 86% reduction in the number of expected heart attacks for that number of men.
  • False reassurance. Recent studies also show people who take statins eat more, move less, and gain weight, thus increasing their heart disease risks and cancelling any already dubious benefit they think they’re receiving. People who take statins are falsely reassured (in the well-chosen words of JAMA: Internal Medicine editor Rita Redberg, MD) that they’re getting some protection.

Statin side effects
Statins work by blocking an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase, which controls cholesterol production in the liver. However, this enzyme is also responsible for your body’s production of coenzyme Q-10, a powerful antioxidant that prevents age-related macular degeneration, heart disease, and fatigue. The muscle pain caused by statins (the pharmaceutical industry reports this at 2%, primary care physicians at 30%) occurs as the statin lowers your CoQ10 levels.

As a side note, everyone (and I do mean everyone) taking statins should also be taking CoQ10 (100 mg UBQH daily).

Statin use has also been associated with memory impairment (25% of your body’s cholesterol is in your brain) and with the early onset of cataracts (27% increased risk among statin users).

One reason statins are a no-no in older adults is that a recent NIH study showed that after age 70, best memory function was observed in those with highest cholesterol levels.

Back to Dr Mandrola
Among the 631 physician comments that Dr. Mandrola received on his blog, several pointed out that doctors virtually had to prescribe statins because they couldn’t offer their patients nutritionists and exercise equipment (or, I would add, prescribe it with the expectation the patient would be reimbursed) and that many patients simply were so chronically noncompliant with health care advice that the doctor was lucky if she could get them to take the statin itself.

Dr Mandrola was sympathetic, but felt an attitude change among physicians was in order.

Sidebar: WholeHealth Chicago has three nutritionists and although most WHC patients work out regularly, I do maintain for my patients a rolodex of personal fitness trainers.

Physicians at the blog also asked about other cholesterol-lowering agents (such as prescription niacin, called Niaspan, and Zetia, which works by blocking cholesterol being absorbed from the digestive tract) and supplements (red yeast rice, plant sterols). Again, however, taking pills misses the point. All of these do lower cholesterol, though not as dramatically as statins, but none is superior to lifestyle modifications for overall heart disease prevention.

In the 15 years since WholeHealth Chicago opened, I’m aware of exactly two patients who died of a heart attack, and both were at high risk when they arrived. I attribute this really low number to the majority of our patients being highly motivated to live lives of wellness. They accomplish this via healthful eating (guided by our nutritionists if needed), weight reduction, and regular exercise. I can’t think of a single patient who’s still smoking.

Patients who resist the sort of DIY efforts we endorse seem to just drift away to pill-pushing medical practices where physicians are agreeable golden retrievers in comparison to our own WHC wellness wolverines.

Statin summary
Return to the four reasons for statins listed above.

  • If you’re in groups 1 or 2 (you have Type 1 or 2 diabetes or you’ve had a previous cardiovascular event), stay on your statin. If you’re mildly diabetic, know it’s reversible and being statin-free is a possibility.
  • If you’re in the third group (LDL over 190 mg/dL), meet with a nutritionist, start eating well and working out, and get further testing, especially the Corus CAD. You’ll probably be able to stop your statin in a few months.
  • Members of the fourth group are likely taking statins unnecessarily. You may be thinking it’s helping when it’s really not. Stop your statin, review the discussion of lifestyle factors above, and get to work on yourself. If you simply cannot commit to significant lifestyle changes, then you might as well CYA and go back on the statin. Just don’t expect it to perform miracles.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD

 

Leave a Comment


  1. Linda Kaplan says:

    What about stopping other meds like EVISTA. I have been taking in for a VERY long time. My doctor told me to stop. Do I just “stop” or ease off–maybe one every other day. Since knee surgery, I am not doing the weight bearing exercises like I did before.

  2. Adrienne Donze says:

    Hello Dr. Edelberg. I am on a statin because I’ve been diagnosed with Inflammatory Arthritis for years and have been told I am therefore at a higher risk of cardio-vascular disease. Do you agree or disagree and could you elaborate? I live in MN or I would be one of your patients! My sister has been seeing you for years and follows your excellent advice. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you! Adrienne in Rochester, MN (yes, home of the Mayo Clinic where I do all my “doctoring”)

  3. Dr E says:

    Hi Linda
    Evista is not among meds that need tapering so I agree with your doctor

  4. Dr E says:

    Hi Adrienne
    Personally, I would work on figuring where the inflammation is coming from. The commonest cause we see here is a condition called “leaky gut syndrome.” You can find physicians in your area treating this at the Institute for Functional Medicine.

  5. Linda Fritts says:

    My husband has a glioblastoma multiforme which was initially removed in March 2014 and removed after re-growth in April 2015. Left hemisphere, area just above left ear (word processing and usage area of brain). He had double bypass surgery 6 years ago and placed on statins in addition to other heart meds. Want to stop statins because they increase glucose in blood (which this tumor feeds on in addition to oxygen). Statins also promote brain fog/confusion, which affect my husband severely now with these 2 surgeries. His cardiologist will not stop the statins even though I know, after all the reports and research done, that they are dangerous for him. Need advice if anyone can give input.

  6. Dr E says:

    Hi Linda
    Let’s just say that doctors don’t always agree with each other. Your cardiologist is defending his position based on studies showing patients who have had by pass surgery have a better chance of preventing a heart attack by using statins than by not using statins. I think covering your husband risks with a healthful diet, some exercise, and maybe a baby aspirin daily is sufficient especially considering a statin side effect (brain fog) is present
    Dr E

  7. D Frye says:

    Much of the advice about statins state that you should not get off of long term statin use abruptly. Yet here you say, “Just quit.”
    I am uncertain that a rapid drop would be the healthy thing to do. Maybe a slow change in the meds.
    Not sure. But I am sure that over 11 doctors advised me to NOT quit statins without follow-up tests.

  8. Dr E says:

    Hi D Frye
    You’ve asked two questions: shall I just quite and shall I get follow up testing
    Honestly, I’ve seen quite a few people simply stop their statins (not on my advice but they just got tired of taking them or lost their health insurance) and nothing much happened. However, you can certainly taper, and about 50% a week is reasonable.
    You can also get follow up testing, basically to see how well your lifestyle changes are keeping your cholesterol down

  9. CGH says:

    I am type 2 diabetic. I had a pacemaker placed in January and a heart attack in June (75% blockage and 34% blockage). I was placed on several drugs after the heart attack, one of them is a statin. Ever since then, I continue to have chest pain (two emergency room visits confirmed they are not heart attacks). My cousin, who is a nurse and diabetic Type 1, had similar pains. He said it was because of the statin and suggested I go off of them. I am losing a lot of sleep, work full-time as a high school teacher, and take care of my 6 month-old grandson. I am full of anxiety and am ready to go of statins, but I do not want to end up in the hospital with another heart attack or for another stent. I have already changed my diet to mostly plant-based and will do what it takes to get healthy. But right now I need sleep and I need the pain in my chest to go away. My cardiologist recently put me on Ranexa, now I have cold sweats, nausea and nearly fainted. He said if the RAnexa didn’t stop the pain, I would be in the hospital to check for more blockages. My cousin said that the pain may be caused from the statin and that a life-style change would lower my cholesteral. It worked for him.

  10. Dr E says:

    Hi CG
    I don’t agree with your well meaning cousin. Although statins are associated with muscle pain, the location is usually in the extremities and back rather than the chest. Your own chest pain, since you know its not a heart attack, could be muscle tension. If the pain is constant you could ask your doctor for a lidocaine patch to put over the painful area. Alternatively use an antiinflammatory gel (Voltaren) rubbed over the painful area.
    By taking UBQH 100 mg a day (Co Q 10) you’ll reduce the chances of side effects from statins. Of all the statins, in my experience Crestor has the fewest side effects.
    Because you are at an increased risk for heart disease, you’re in the group that statins will really help

  11. Evelyn Niehues says:

    Dear Dr. E,

    I have lost 30 lbs since May of this year. I am 5’5″, 57 years old, A1C was at 5.5, down from 6.0. At my regular cardiologist appt. in July, my Dr. was very happy with all the weight loss and my numbers. He did say that my cholesterol was now below normal. I asked if that meant that I could stop taking the Simvastatin, he said “No”. He wanted to wait to see how I do with my weight on the next appt in January.
    Beginning in January of 2015 I started having muscle spasms, in my back, legs and eyelids. I asked him about this and he said, ” I don’t know what could be causing that”. I don’t have my labs in front of me as I am at work, so I can’t tell you how low my cholesterol is. I also get a loud reverberation sound in my ears when my back seizes up. I’m beginning to suspect the statins and the low cholesterol. To say the least, I am very concerned. Thank you, Evelyn

  12. Dr E says:

    Hi Evelyn
    Let your cardiologist know about the muscle spasms and he’ll likely take you off the statins himself

  13. Goldi says:

    Hi
    I’m now at the hospital and had a mild cardio vascular event.
    The blood tests showed I need a catheterization and it will happened in the next few days… They want me to start take statins, they say it’s better for the prosidure ..
    I’m afraid to start it cause maybe I will not be able to stop.
    I’m 60 and never took any drugs before…
    It makes me very sad, do you have any idea what can I do?
    Thanks
    Goldi

  14. Judith says:

    Hi Dr E
    I had a stroke in Sept this year but am recovering well however I ache in my back and my legs hurt when walking ( not sitting). I’m on the highest dose (80mg) of atorvastatin and I want to take CoQ10 but my problem is I’m also on Clopidogrel and aspirin and have read that The two taken together can cause internal bleeding. What are your thoughts on this? Also what can I do to guard against the possible long term side effects of the statin such as kidney failure, cancer?

  15. Judith says:

    I meant to add that my cholesterol is low and I need to exercise to help with weight loss – my blood pressure meds are making it hard to lose weight. I seem to be caught in a hard place and am very worried. I hate taking any drugs and have gone from none at all to 4 different BP meds as well as the others I mentioned.

  16. Dr E says:

    Hi Judith
    Yes, the aspirin and clopidrogel can cause bleeding and should be discussed with your doctor. Adding Co Q 10 may help with your muscle pain which may be caused by the statins. If your cholesterol is low AND your blood pressure is under control AND you’re using a blood thinner then you’ve really reduced your stroke risk considerably. Although it is healthier to lose weight and exercise, I wouldn’t worry too much about the excess weight as you’ve got your stroke risks covered by your other therapies

  17. Dr E says:

    Hi Goldi
    Actually, in your situation, the statins are a good idea as they may prevent further blockage from developing

  18. Jim D. says:

    Hello, Dr. E,

    I had a single angina event a year ago, which brought me into the ER. Catheterization indicated blockages and I had a double bypass. After my surgery (no heart muscle damage per the surgeon), I was started on 40 mg Atorvastatin, 2.5 mg Bystolic, and low-dose aspirin. I also stopped smoking, lost weight (normal BMI now) and, in the last year, consistently adhered to a better diet (Mediterranean) and exercise more regularly (mostly daily walking, but not always consistently).

    Labs six months ago indicated an LDL cholesterol of 70, and over the past year, my BP has averaged around 114/75. At my cardiology appointment six months ago, my cardiologist told me I could start fading and then discontinue the Bystolic. When I did so, I had only a very slight increase in BP and basically maintained the reduced BP levels. At an appointment today, my cardiologist told me that “when I feel like it,” I can stop my statin. I’m not sure what he based this on (except my log of my BP levels), since he did not re-do the labs (except an EKG, which was noma)on this visit. He wants me to continue the low-dose aspirin. Based on what you said in your post, do I not fall into one of the groups who should continue the statin? I’m a 63 yo male, have a family history of heart attacks, but I have no other current health problems.

  19. Dr E says:

    Hi Jim
    Your cardiologist is right about the Bystolic. Current research does show that although beta blockers can lower blood pressure, they’re not all that good about preventing heart attacks.
    The statin recommendation is a little puzzling coming from a cardiologist because the one group that is protected by statins are those patients who have had either angina or a bypass. I would ask him for clarification

  20. Jim D. says:

    Dr. E,
    Thank you very much for your reply.
    As you suggested, I will ask my cardiologist to clarify his statin recommendation. I was surprised by his recommendation, but during the visit, he only stated that he usually wants patients to stay on these meds for a year after the surgery.
    My understanding of the research is that comparison of absolute vs. relative risk reduction indicates that the benefit of statins is not all that compelling, even for secondary prevention. I’m also concerned about long-term adverse effects, given that cholesterol is an essential substance for cellular functioning. Nonetheless, I’m reluctant to stop the statin, however, since even most physicians and researchers who are critical of statins still will recommend that patients who have had a cardiac event should continue to take statins. I think most of those critics would emphasize that the major benefit of statins derive from their anti-inflammatory properties, and I would consider continuing a lower dose for that purpose. I would interested in your comments.

  21. Glenda says:

    Dr. E.
    In 2005 I had a blockage and had a stent put in. I’m now on Ranexa and a statin (Crestor). In the past three months I have completely cut out sugar and lost 35 pounds. I am still overweight, but getting there. Do you think it would be ok for me to stop the statin? I have had muscle pains (mostly in the legs) and would love to see if they go away without the statin. My doctor ignores my complaint.

  22. Dr E says:

    Hi Glenda
    Actually you’re the group that fares best with the statin by it’s ability to prevent further obstruction. I would first try using high potency Co Q 10 (called UBQH) 100 mg daily to see if this prevents the leg pains

  23. Scott says:

    Hello Dr. Edelberg. I am 45 years old and had a lipid panel done in October 2015. My total cholesterol was 230, LDL was 165, HDL was 39. At that time, I was put on Simvastatin (20mg per day) and I have taken it for 3 months now. After that doctor visit, I began scouring the web for information on lowering my cholesterol. I have a family history of heart disease as both of my grandfathers died in their 40s from massive heart attacks. I gathered most of my information from the Pritikin website and decided to change my lifestyle. I am currently doing 60 minutes of cardio per day (7 days a week) and strength training (5 days a week). My diet is very similar to Pritikin recommendations (mainly plant based protein and/or fish/chicken. red meat once a week and it is usually bison or elk) In addition, I take a full regiment of Metamucil and CholestOff daily. I have lost 50 pounds since making the lifestyle change and I feel great. I went in today for my follow up appointment to have blood work done again. I had mentioned to this doctor (not the normal doctor I see) that I would like to stop taking the statin and see if I could manage my cholesterol with my new lifestyle. He basically said it wasn’t going to happen and that once you get older, you need medications to keep things in order. I believe I am just going to stop taking the pill and ignore his advice. I know that the results from this lipid panel will show lower cholesterol levels because of the statin’s influence on my liver, but how long should I wait to determine the affect of my new lifestyle on the numbers? In other words, how long does it take the statin to get out of my system? Thank you for your time and this great article Dr. Edelberg.

  24. Dr E says:

    Hi Scott
    Congrats on the lifestyle changes and I agree that you may well be able to do just fine off statins. These should be completely out of your body in about a month

  25. upendra says:

    Sir,My age is 48 years & I’m taking statin ( Rozavel-10 ) since 3 years as advised by Doctor when my tryglyserides was 260 but now it is with in 150-160 and still taking statin. I want to leave sttain as there is many side effects basically kidney and liver failure.

    Should I leave statis by major life style changes along with daily regorous excecises of more than 1 hour.

  26. Dr. R says:

    Upendra. I recommend you consult with the doctor who originally prescribed the medication before you decide to stop taking it. Life style changes are always a good idea regardless of whether or not you’re taking medication.

  27. Carrie says:

    My husband had a mild stroke 6 weeks ago. He was initially put on 40 ml Lipitor which was reduced 2 weeks later to 20 ml. He was also put on a low dose aspirin and blood thinner. His stroke cause mild aphasia only. All the test for carotid arteries being the cause were negative and his heart looked good except for just a little plaque buildup. They never determined the cause. His legs feel like led and he still feels very foggy and forgetful. It is hard to work on his speech homework and word retention and we think it’s from the statin and not so much stroke side affects. We are questioning whether this is cause by the statin and if his aphasia recovery is being delayed by the side affects. My question is should he go off statins? He is on a high quality CoQ10 and is eating lots of veggies fruits and good fats.

  28. Dr E says:

    Hi Carrie
    Most likely the symptoms you describe are residual from the stroke and not the statin. Your doctor is clearly trying to prevent another stroke and it is probably a good idea to remain on the med

  29. Carol says:

    Dr E
    I have type 2 diabetes and recently had a light heart attack with no heart damage
    They out in 2 stints
    Also I was given a stain drug
    After research I feel the stains are dangerous
    It makes me achy tired and I don’t want to take them
    I am choosing to eat right and start exercise
    I don’t like all the dangerous side effects of a lot of drugs
    Can I stop taking the stains and work on reversing diabetes and lowering cholesterol safely
    Thanks Carol

  30. Carol says:

    Thank you DR. E for taking the time to reply to my question.

    I am assuming the way I described my situation you did not feel my situation was a potential high risk.
    That I should / could just stop taking Crestor with all its side effects.
    Thank you again Dr. E
    Carol

  31. Dr E says:

    Hi Carol
    Unfortunately, current medical research has shown that in your particular situation, namely diabetes plus known heart disease, statins can prevent further heart attacks.However, if you are having side effects from statins, you can generally get by with a VERY low dose, like Crestor 2.5 mg a day as long as you take it with a high dose (100 mg a day) of CoQ10

  32. Eileen McCoey says:

    Im 73 yrs old. Am on 25mg statin. Recently feel frustrated at my memory leaving me and foggy head all the time. Just want to sleep. My arteries are 75 per cent blocked the other two are 55 percent blocked. Should I just give up.?

  33. Dr E says:

    Hi Eileen
    I hope you mean give up on statins rather than give up on life!
    Actually your blockage is not unusual for your age and if you are feeling foggy, then with your doctor’s okay, I suggest going off the statins for about 8 weeks or so to see if they’re the villain

  34. Dee Dee says:

    I am post menopause age 54 and prescribed statins for high cholesterol approximately a year ago. I have always been thin…until I started taking these meds I have gained 15-20 pounds and growing and my belly fat is ridiculous. I asked my doctor about it this past January and he blamed “old age” and the holidays caused my weight gain.I was also told my liver levels are now high and he wants to monitor this new situation. . I’m very frustrated and want to just stop taking meds I was originally told by doctor he felt it was genetic as I am (was) thin and always ate healthy. . Is it dangerous to just stop.. I would love to flush these down the toilet but don’t know if it would be better to seek a new doctor. Other than asthma I am very healthy and never take medication. . I just want my six pack back …I want to feel like myself again please let me know your thoughts Thank You

  35. cliffmaurer says:

    Hi Dee Dee –

    I’d definitely suggest seeing another physician for a second opinion. If discontinuing medication of any kind, it’s best to do so under medical supervision, but these changes definitely warrant a discussion. If you’re in the Chicago area, Dr. Edelberg, Dr. Donigan or Nurse Practitioner Maureen Milota would be a good place to start. If you’re not close to our center, you can google the Institute for Functional Medicine for other like-minded physicians in your area.

    Best wishes to you in your search.
    -Dr Maurer

  36. Geoff mason says:

    I am 81 years old and take warfarin and dijoxin and rovastatin…I take these for atrial fibrillation…I ache in every joint and am thinking of stopping the statins for a trial month to see if this is the problem…is this a good idea????

  37. Dr E says:

    Hi Geoff
    I find far too many patients were started on statins for cholesterol levels that weren’t all that high.
    There is a real debate whether patients over 80 should even bother with them (see LINK)
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22901970
    Personally, I’d go off them and see if you feel better. If you have a good relationship with your doctor, tell him that you simply don’t want to spend the rest of your life in pain

  38. Rodney Collier says:

    Hello. I am a 50 year old male and had a tough 2015 with many GI issues. All doctors thought it was Acid Reflux. I then had some weakness in my left arm on 11-28-2015 and felt funny that night. I went to the ER and later my Troponin T was very slightly elevated. I ended up on the cath lab and had two blockages in my circumflex artery. Two DES were deployed. My question is extreme fatigue and exhaustion along with joint pain and muscle weakness is breaking me. I am on 20mg Lipitor. I am eating great, exercising daily, weigh 169 at 5 10. I want off the statin. Thoughts? Last Lipid was 143 total, 63 LDL and 71 HDL. Thanks Rodney

  39. Dr E says:

    Hi Rodney
    By using statins, the doctors are obviously trying to protect you from developing more blockages. However, these take quite a while to appear. You can try a couple of things
    1. Go off the statins for 2-3 weeks. If you then “feel fine,” obviously the Lipitor is the villain. Discuss with your doctor switching you to a much smaller dose of Crestor (2.5 mg) or using something else to lower your cholesterol. Crestor has fewer side effects than Lipitor. When you start the Crestor, also take UBQH (CoQ 10) 100 mg daily
    or
    2. Stay on the statin but go 100% gluten free for 2-3 weeks. You may have something called “non celiac gluten sensitivity.” Actually going gluten free may lower your cholesterol enough to also get off your statin

  40. Janet Frank says:

    I am 89 and because of liver enzymes being high taken off Atorvastatin cold turkey. I have been getting a lot of headaches (although I do have sinus issues also) and have a “fuzzy feeling in my head”. My cholesterol was high even tho on the statin drug. Am I at risk for a stroke? Snould I take COQ10 or L Carnatin?

  41. Dr Ram K says:

    One of my friend had AMI was stented twice.He was having sedentary lifestyle. He is on Rosaday 20 mg for last 2 years. He runs with me about 30KM per week. Now he is very fit. Nowadays he is getting muscle cramps. His CPK is 650. Is it better to lower the dose of statin. Or is it possible to get off statins
    Dr Ram Kulkarni

  42. Dr E says:

    Hi Dr Ram
    Your friend should drop his statin dose by 75% and then recheck his CPK. If his cramps are better and his CPK has dropped he is probably better off the statins
    Dr E

  43. Samantha says:

    Dr. E:
    My dad is 58 years old and has been on statin medication for years. He does not have any history of strokes or heart attacks. However, he does smoke. He mentioned to me that he always feels fatigued and foggy and I am also concerned about other SE of statins. He has been walking 3-4 times a week about 45 minutes. Do you feel that it is safe to come off statins and do a recheck in a few months?

  44. Annie Garitta says:

    Hi I have a question
    I have been on Crestor for many years, like 25 on statins . I went on a cruise had high cholesterol of 280. My MD put me on statins, I ate thinks I never eat .
    Over years I have cad, with a blockage of 40%in right artery. I am now 64 , stopped Crestor 40 mg about five weeks ago . I also have copd. The last few days if I walk or go to a store my heart races and have trouble breathing. Should I go back on Crestor ? Really do not want to , but if this continue I know I will be back at Cathy lab.
    My copd is fine , do not understand this fast pulse . Any suggestions thank you

  45. Dr. R says:

    Annie. I recommend that you see your primary care physician immediately to discuss these recent symptoms and your medications.

  46. Manoj says:

    I had a cholesterol 275 triglycerides 817 hdl 23 and ldl 70 I tool rozavel 20 for a month and cholesterol came down to 96 triglycerides 199 and hdl 21 and ldl 36 only…I stopped taking medicine for last one month and just doing morning walk for 40 minutes in morning
    ..Is there any risk of stopping station medicine I have no diabetes and bp problem

  47. Dr E says:

    Hi Manoj
    I think you should get more information about your overall risks for heart disease (family history, CT of your heart for calcium deposits, genetic study . Also, with such a dramatic drop in your numbers, if it does turn out that you need the med, you can probably get success with a much lower dose

  48. Guy Boyd says:

    Hi Dr. Edelberg, I have had a heart attack earlier this year (May 27 of 2016), but I still have decided to stop taking statins. I have changed my diet drastically and as a result have lost 20 pounds and have reduced my triglycerides from 195 to 68. My LDL particle size is increasing and my HDL numbers have increased too. I am curious why the consensus is still to take statins without question for people like myself that have had a previous heart attack, when it seems from all my research that the absolute benefit for doing so is still only about a 2% to 3% reduction in a second heart attack. I think I can counter that very modest benefit by making the lifestyle changes that I have made. I do not want to be on statins. I have researched them quite a bit and definitely do not want to undergo a lifetime of statin use for what looks like very little benefit. Do you feel that it can be safe to stop statin use if you have had a heart attack, providing the proper lifestyle chnages are made as described?

  49. Dr E says:

    Hi Guy
    I think lifestyle changes after a heart attack are more valuable than statins

  50. Linda Hudson says:

    Can you just stop taking statin all at once or does it take a little each day. How do you just stop.

  51. Dr. R says:

    Linda. Before changing the dosing of any medication, it is always best to consult with the physician that prescribed the medication or another physician that is familiar with your health history.

  52. ERIC says:

    I got proscribed cholesterol and BLOOD pressure meds. I am 40 years old I was in great shape before hand. Doctor prescribed them I took them and they really messed me up..doctor told me to stop taking them I’ve had several problems now including off balance unsteady that permits me from walking..can anyone explain? I only took medicine for 5 days

  53. Steve Vorchheimer says:

    Getting off Lipitor today. I’ve only been on it a little over a year. After reading more than I wanted to know no more. I eat very little sat fat. Now I will eat even less. The strange thing my wife eats what I eat she has no problem. I’m going try B12, B6 and few other things. I have never smoked, drink a glass of wine a day. 5’10 155lbs. 72 years young. Walk everyday 4-6 miles, run/walk intervals.

  54. Ed says:

    I’m 61, high blood pressure (treated and controlled), family history of heart disease,.
    I was put on statin (20 mg) after 96 LDL, 49 HDL, 120 trig. lipid test.
    After 6 weeks 42 LDL, 54 HDL, 99 trig.
    I’d like to get off the statins or reduced dose. Any advice?

  55. cliffmaurer says:

    Hi Ed –

    Your HDL number appears to be great! Make certain that your doctor is reminded of the statin dose that you’re on and your current cholesterol numbers. Believe it or not, we don’t like to see patients’ cholesterol numbers fall too low, since we all need cholesterol to make hormones and complete other bodily functions. If you’re going to discontinue the statin, you should definitely do so under a prescriber’s advice. Never be afraid to ask for a second opinion if you have misgivings about continuing a medication with which you’re not comfortable. Any of our MDs, DO or Nurse Practitioners can help if you’re in the Chicago area.

    Best,
    Dr M

  56. kathy Vaughan says:

    Very informative. As a writer, I have suffered cognitive impairment since on Lipitor 5 months. I am stunned at the effects on my mind. I totally agree with doctors prescribing statins for the unhealthy patient who is overweight, sedentary etc. my own doctor is on them and is a blimp.

    I’m off this poison weaning slowly,Mobutu after reading this, I’m done. My cholesteral was at 296, now at 183. But I suffer. Hired a nutritionist, tweaked my already good diet, exercise a lot but was told I am genetically inclined, blah blah. So, thx for the right on info. Kudos to u.

  57. Rodney Collier says:

    Hi. 50 yr old male. Two stents placed in my circumflex and circumflex branch in November 2015. I have tried Lipitor , Crestor , and just tried Livalo. Side effects were just crushing. Fatigue, muscle pain and weakness, memory loss, vision problems, etc. tried Livalo for one week and it was the worst. I experienced headache, indigestion, heartburn, stomach distress, and heart palpitations. I stopped after 7 days now been off for three days. I was doing great during the 2 months once I stopped Crestor but doctor wants me on a statn so tried Livalo. Can that drug cause all of these problems and how long will it take to get completely out of my system? Help in statin distress.

  58. Tara Messner says:

    Hi, i am 56 yrs old & my dr. Keeps wanting me to take choloesterol meds. She says its too high at 140 but thats what it always seems to b around. I take the med once in awhile & when i get my blood work done the number never seems to change, then my dr. changes my med to something different & i dont take them regularly either! So, do i really nerd the med & why is she always pushinf some kinda statin on me??

  59. cliffmaurer says:

    Hi Tara – We try to see cholesterol as a piece of the puzzle. When our docs and nurse practitioners decide whether or not a cholesterol number is worth treating with medication, we take into consideration other factors as well. It’s true that use of statin medications have been shown to provide heart-protective benefits to some patients, and perhaps that’s what your doctor is focusing on. However, a second opinion on a medication you’re reluctant to take is a good idea. If you’re in the Chicago area, I’d recommend seeing one of our doctors or nurse practitioners for a consultation. If you’re elsewhere, we like this website from the Institute for Functional Medicine t help folks find providers near them: httpss://www.functionalmedicine.org/practitioner_search.aspx?id=117

  60. Debbie says:

    Thanks for the extremely valuable information! I think most conventional doctors treat symptoms, not causes, strictly according to protocol with no regard for the individual. I of sick of not being listened to hearing the benefits of the meds out way the negatives I disagree! I live in NJ and I’m searching for an alternative physician, but not having much luck. Any suggestions?

  61. Dr. R says:

    Hi Debbie. You might try the Institute for Functional Medicine. httpss://www.functionalmedicine.org/practitioner_search.aspx?id=117

  62. Bonham says:

    Glad I found you.

  63. Tom Caron says:

    Lipid panel –
    Colesteral – 119
    HDL – 39
    Triglycerides – 69
    LDL – 66
    Age 64 male, 2000 Metformin a day.
    10mg Crestor daily.
    Blood pressure 116/70, 6, 1″ tall, 195lbs
    Do I need to keep taken the Crestor?
    Should I be concerned about the low Lipid numbers?
    Thanks!

  64. Dr E says:

    Hi Tom
    Your doctor likely started you on statins not because you had high cholesterol but because he had been taught that all diabetics should take statins no matter what their cholesterol happened to be (you being on metformin told me you are diabetic)
    There is now considerably controversy about this recommendation especially since it has been shown that statins can actually cause diabetes.
    For you, I would take a look at your cholesterol before statins. If it was not particularly high, I would suggest that you ask your doctor to give you a compelling reason to remain on them

  65. Jay says:

    Hello –

    I’ve been put on a atrovastatin dose of 20mg which I’ve been taking since past 2 months.

    I am also on 500mg metformin
    Here are a few stats on my latest blood work:

    A1C – 6.1 (was at 6.7 before this check)
    LDL- 110
    HDL – 53

    I am 39 yrs old, vegetarian and maintain active lifestyle.
    After reading several posts/blogs on statins and its side effects, just wanted to check if I can stop taking it after consulting the doctor.

    Not sure if my case is mildly diabetic or highly diabetic.

    Somehow the numbers that the doctors ask us to achieve seem quite aggressive (for e.g. have an a1c of < 5.8 and LDL of < 100). Not sure if there is universal acceptance of these figures and its implications.

    As layman, I am confused !
    Just wanted to know your opinion. Appreciate your response in this regard

    Regards,
    Jay

  66. Dr E says:

    Hi Jay
    You’re not really diabetic but rather pre-diabetic. Given that you are physically active and a vegetarian I would place your overall risks as “low,” but to remain there, you’ll need to continue to work on it. If there’s early heart disease or diabetes in your family your doctor may want to be more aggressive in your treatment. Overall, I think you are doing well

  67. Constance says:

    You state if you have had a heart attack then stay on your statin but what if it was misdiagnosed and it was a lack of magnesium or other nutrient? And what if the statin is doing more harm than good wouldn’t it be better to employ a lifestyle change and take supplements like Ubiquenol, Serrapeptase, vitamin D,c,e, as well as fish oil?

  68. I dropped 38 pounds over 18 months started walking 5 miles per day cholesterol was still high, then went on a Vegan diet 5 days a week with a little fish a couple time a week and no more meds. Dr says all my test results have sky rocketed into very safe areas and prescribed nothing to me. Just told me to keep it up. 🙂

  69. Judy says:

    What if you are 76, have type 2 diabetes on Insulin, have had a recent “stroke” and have debilitating fatigue? Do you STILL stay on the statin??

  70. Dr E says:

    Hi Judy
    Your age and other diagnoses place you in the group in which statins do make a difference in prevention. If you’re not troubled by side effects, then stay on the statins. If you do have side effects, ask your doctor to try lowering your dose

  71. Charlie Meggitt says:

    I’m a male age 54 with slight high levels of bad cholesterol. I’ve been taking Lipitor for 8 years. Over that time I am now 35 lbs. overweight, my sex drive is very low, my testertone level is low, I have a hard time getting and maintaining an erection, I am tired and can’t sleep through the night without waking up for a few hours. I also get easily agitated and when exercising (which I don’t do enough) I get winded and out of breath. I have a girlfriend of 1 1/2 years who thinks the Lipitor is causing my problems. She is the first woman since my divorce five years ago who I’ve had a steady sex life with but after our initial “new relationship sex” I’m now not able to get motivated for sex. Could she be right?

  72. cliffmaurer says:

    Hi Charlie – we actually see this quite a bit. Would your doctor be open to lifestyle methods of addressing your cholesterol? If so, please discuss this with him or her. If you’d like a second opinion and are in or around Chicago, consider setting up an appointment with any of our physicians. Particularly Dr. Scott and Nurse Practitioner Katie McManigal work with patients through this kind of thing all the time.

    Best wishes to you,
    Dr M

  73. Joan C says:

    I am a 62 yr. young female and have been on Lovastatin for 7 years(original Cholesterol of 229 when doc prescribed) and I have been treated for what we assume is Fibromyalgia. I have pages in a journal of severe muscle pains that change daily and go as fast as they come. Sometimes just yelping out with an unexplained foot spasm or shoulder spasm and enormous cramping from leg to foot the list goes on and on so I am taking Celecoxib which has worked great for about 3 years but now I’ve developed painful hands,leg and foot burning,cramping and no back pain. Exercising is not possible such as extended time on my feet so I bought a rower. My point is I would love to get off of all 3 meds(Also on Metformin pre-type 2 diabetes) since I’m reading that the Statin could be the culprit for the the type 2 pre-diabetes and muscle pain. I am 62, not overweight, good blood pressure and with 20mg of Lovastatin the #’s are:LDL-80,HDL-76,TRI-89,Cholesterol ratio is 2.3
    With increased exercise and dedication to healthy -seldom meat diet would going off the Lovastatin be a good idea for me. Is there anything else I can try. I also take 200mg CoQ10 daily. With the pain coming back I am worried about the future and too young to be saying ‘no’ to being active with 4 grandkids and another baby on the way I need to be myself again.
    Thank you

  74. Rahul says:

    Hi Ed,

    I am 31 and i am on atorvastatin for 7 years, my cholestrol level now.

    Total Cholestrol : 158
    Trigl : 89
    hdl : 49
    LDL : 91
    LDL/HDL : 1.9

    Now it shows i am prediabetic. No history of diabetics.

    Can i stop using statin? or can you suggest any changes since i believe the sugar values are high because of statin and my muscle mass is getting low.

  75. Dr E says:

    Hi Rahul
    Pre diabetes at 31 and high cholesterol starting seven years ago when you were only 24 generally means your doctor has spotted a lot of potential health risks.
    Your most important next steps are meeting with a nutritionist to supervise a healthful diet; get your weight into an “optimal” range if you are overweight; begin a regular cardio based exercise program. When all three of these conditions have been met, then we can talk about changing, lowering or discontinuing your meds

  76. Joyce Morrill says:

    My father has an abdominal aortic aneurysm and is on Lipitor. Is it safe for him to stop taking it? He eats well and juices daily, exercises and takes care of himself. His HDL is 31, LDL 56 and total cholesterol 104. My concern is the aneurysm — do statins help keep them from growing?

  77. Dr E says:

    Hi Joyce
    There is actually some evidence that statins slow down expansion rate of aneurysms so it is best that he remain on them

  78. Good Morning, I had a mild H.A. 3 yrs ago. It was determined I had plaque and was put on beta blocker, BP med, aspirin, and 40MG Simvastatin.No interventions were done, ie. stent, etc. I have been very ill for 3 months – a few good days here and there, but I have brain fog, memory issues, Intense muscle aches in upper and lower arms (getting worse each day it seems) severe chills, tingling and weird sensations in legs, nausea and digestion issues, flu-type symptoms…generally feel horrid. Saw new Cardiologist yesterday and he told me I could stop beta blocker, and now I’m waiting to see about the statin. He thought the 40Mg was a lot given my current health. I exercise regularly, am very slim, eat organic & super healthy, don’t smoke, etc. My instincts say Pitch those statins, but I now wait for him to see my past labs and results from my last stress test done 2 yrs ago…he said I could take a half a pill for now until I see him in a month. That is a long time to continue to feel this bad. Thanks for your thoughts….Oh, I’m 68 years Young 🙂

  79. Dr E says:

    Hi Vanna
    I agree that you probably could pitch them since they seem to be causing such misery. Also simvastatin at those dose has the worst side effects. You might ask about a tiny (2.5 mg) of Crestor which will keep cholesterol low and is virtually side effect free

  80. Sofia says:

    Hi doctor,
    I just found your site, thank you!!
    In November 2015 I was told by a heart specialist to take 40 mg Simvastatin every day. I was 34 years old at the time and had no health problems besides a family history of blood clots/strokes. I just quit the statins two weeks ago because of debilitating leg pain. Both of my parents had blood clots/strokes at a young age, my father had in the heart at age 55 and my mother in the brain at age 43 so I guess that was why I was ordered to take such a high dose? After stopping the statins I’ve read a lot about them especially about the cancer risk, and I’m really really afraid that my years of high dosage statin use have put me in greater risk of breast and/or skin cancer! :’-( I didn’t know ANYTHING about statin risks at the time, I just did what the doctor told me because I was so afraid of getting a blood clot/stroke at a young age. My cholesterol numbers BEFORE statins were:
    HDL 1,5 mmol
    LDL 3,8 mmol
    Total: 5,8 mmol
    Trig: 1,19 mmol
    and ON statins they were:
    HDL 1,73 mmol
    LDL 1,8 mmol
    Total: 4,1 mmol
    Trig: 1,18 mmol
    I was never super overweight but had a poor diet which I’m changing now while trying to get regular exercise, I just feel like it’s very very hard for me to find peace of mind because I’m worrying so much about my cancer risk because of the statins while also worrying about my risk of a possible hereditary stroke/blood clot. My question to you is: Do you think the high dose of 40 mg. Simvastatin through 2,5 years have given me a a high risk of getting the big C? :’-( Note: I’ve taken 200 mg of Q10 every day in those 2,5 years, maybe that’s why the pain didn’t bother me until years after (?) but now I’m afraid of what I’ve been putting into my body all those years :’-( Thank you so much.

  81. Dr E says:

    Hi Sofia
    Although there are a couple of “alarmist” websites that frighten readers about links between statins and cancer, there has actually never been a link found. One HUGE study, tracking almost 100,000 statin users found NO evidence of increased cancer.
    You have probably been protecting yourself from other health risks with statins by using the CoQ 10. The leg pains you experienced were a good enough reason, in my mind, to stop your statins.
    If you want to be on a very low dose of a milder one, then Crestor 2.5-5.0 mg is the best choice

  82. Wurood says:

    Hi dr.
    I’m so happy and lucky to find you and your blog. I’m 50 years old now, 18 years ago I had a heart attack and I was put one steint in my heart and two steints in my left leg artery. My cardiologist started me that time on zocor 20mg, then 1 year later ,increases it to 40mg. Checking my blood test for All lipid panel on 6 months basis I stayed on zocor 40mg for 4 years and the number of ldl staying on 100. Then he switched me to Lipitor 40 mg with zetia 10mg , and after 2 years the ldl only went down to 90. Then he put me on Lipitor 80 mg after 6 months I started severe muscle pain, cramps and then he switched me to Zocor 80mg +zetia10mg plus coq10 200mg I start that last October 2017, in February 2018 my blood results came ldl 105, hdl 47, even my hdl was almost time less than 40. And my triglycerides was 105, total cholesterol was 105. So on these I was still taking till last month May 2018, I had severe hip pain left side and then other shoulders pain in my joints. I couldn’t figure out from what. I took lot of pain killers the highest and the last was tramadol , and still pain wasn’t going away, I saw 3 doctors and they said I keep taking pain killers and ibuprofen 600mg till pain goes away. They did me X-ray to my hip and shoulder and didn’t show anything. Then one day I thought maybe these statins zocor 80mg And zetia causing me these pain side effects, so I stopped them on my own for two weeks I became pain free. Last week Wednesday I went see my md he gave me crestor 20mg and that day he took me blood work, after a week today I went see the blood tests, I was super chocked, the numbers accumulated double the numbers when I did my last blood test in February 2018. I cannot believe it, my question I stopped only 2 weeks the statins , will it double my cholesterol levels that fast ???? The ldl 217, the hdl 39, the total cholesterol 305, and triglycerides 205. ??? I asked my md today I can’t beleivr these are my numbers, because I stopped the statins only two weeks is it possible the numbers jump up that high? He don’t have an answer, he said I don’t know. He wants me to wait 2 months from now to see if the crestor 20mg will make better decrease. I can’t believe it . May you tell me what you think and your opinion please.? I’m a Middle Eastern person and all my food I cook and it’s all Mediterranean diet food. Please give me your answer and what shall I do ?
    Ps: I want to ask my mr doctor to redo my tests and I want to do it in different lab.

  83. Dr. R says:

    Wurood. For some people there is a genetic predisposition for high lipid levels regardless of diet and exercise. It would make sense to have labs repeated to confirm these new results. In addition, it is often very helpful to take CoQ10 (100 mg daily) to reduce muscle and joint pain while taking statin medication.

  84. Meelah says:

    Dear Dr E,

    I recently had a stent at age 41 and along side i am on diabetes medications for 4 yrs. After i had a heart attack with 1 stent put in, im given lotsa medications which are aspirin, blood thinner and atvostatin ontop of my diabetes medications. Im due for my cardiologist review in 1 month’s time. If by then my cholestrol level has come down to normal reading, can i be off on all my heart medications as ive read statin can cause damage to kidneys? My cardiologist told me that ive to take asprins for life and blood thinner for 1 year. If in the next few months my cholestrol levels are well maintained through exercise and diet can i be off these heart medications for good? Im very worried and concern on the heart medications. Thank you very much for your advice.

  85. Dr E says:

    Hi Meelah
    First of all, don’t be all that worried about your meds. Although I think the statin drugs are overprescribed by doctors, generally they’re quite safe. The kidney damage you refer to is extremely rare (like one or two cases per million users) and you’d actually have plenty of warning because of severe (severe!!) muscle pain.
    Second, because you’re only 41, and have already had a stent, you’re in the group that does need statins, unless (as your cardiologist has pointed out), you can make lifestyle changes to bring your cholesterol down on your own
    From what I am reading of your comment, your cardiologist is giving you good advice

  86. Julie Quinones says:

    Dear Dr. Edelberg, I am a 48 year old woman with no history of Heart diaease o Heart problema. I was extremely overwhelmed, gas bariatric surgery anche Lost a good parte. I am 12 kg away from my goal weight. My endocrinologist insists in having me take 10 mg of atrvastatina. I have been in it for 6 months. I am full of muscular and joint pain. I feel like my stomach is exploding, abdominal pain especially my sided and back at kidney level. I feel bloated as well. Got a constant rushing sound in my ears. I am always tired. Heavy arms and recently gained 6 kg out of nowhere. I want to stop taking it but am terrified. I am in Italy and they are pro statins bit not having ant history I feel like It is destryoing instead of helping. What should I do?
    Looking foward to your kind response.

    Kind regards,

    Julie

  87. Dr E says:

    Hi Julie
    I am VERY surprised your doctor keeps pushing statins when your body clearly is trying to tell you otherwise. You should simply tell him “This drug is making me sick and I am worried about the long term consequences of what is not a ‘harmless’ medication.” If he keeps insisting then I suggest you find another doctor

  88. Mark Hoynack says:

    Hello Dr. Edelberg, I was put on rosuvstatin(10mg) (9) months ago. My overall cholesterol was 210 dropping to 139. My LDL went from 109 to 70. Three days ago I stopped taking the medication. Between insomnia and muscle pain, I couldn’t take it anymore. I am going to go back to eating healthier and increase exercising. With all the possible side effects (muscle pain, myopathy, ALS, dementia, etc. Should I be worry of any long term effects or does the body recover well after stopping statin drugs. Thanks for your time.

  89. Mark Hoynack says:

    Dr. Edelberg, (1) more question: during those (9) months, I was never told to take CoQ 10. Should I start taking the supplement or will my body correct itself.

    Thanks

  90. Dr. R says:

    Hi Mark. It’s always best to consult with your primary care physician regarding prescribed medication. If your physician recommends statins for reasons in addition to lowering lipid levels, there are ways to mitigate the “side effect” symptoms; lower dosage, change statin medications, supplement with CoQ10, etc. Lifestyle changes can make significant differences in lipid levels; however, it is important to check labs within 6 weeks to be vigilant regarding your lipids.

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