High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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You usually have to continue taking statins for life because if you stop taking them, your cholesterol will return to a high level within a few weeks. Nonetheless, there are some possible side effects to consider, including some which may influence your mood. The NHS says that there are five types of statin available on prescription in the UK, and side effects will differ depending on which one you take.
Some side effects may show up in your mood. Indeed, one study published in PubMed suggests that “severe irritability” is associated with statin cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Another study, published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, says: “Though statins are widely tolerated, they may be among the growing list of prescription agents that, in some participants, may increase the risk of serious psychiatric events and/or behavioural changes.”
The study concludes that the findings suggest that cholesterol-lowering drugs should be “added to the list of agents that bear consideration when new irritability, or aggressive or violent behavioural changes arise”.
The NHS says that you should discuss the benefits and risks of taking statins with your doctor before you start taking the medicine.
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It is thought that more than seven million Britons take statins. The main types of statin prescribed in the UK are atorvastatin, fluvastatin pravastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin.
As well as behavioural changes, there are several other side effects to be mindful of.
The NHS notes that many people who take statins experience no or very few side effects, though others will experience “some troublesome, but usually minor, side effects, such as diarrhoea, a headache or feeling sick”.
The health body adds that statins can occasionally cause muscle inflammation and damage.
Rare side effects include loss of sensation or tingling in the nerve endings of the hands and feet, and tendon problems. Uncommon side effects include skin problems, such as acne or an itchy red rash.
It suggests: “Speak to your doctor if you have muscle pain, tenderness or weakness that cannot be explained – for example, pain that is not caused by physical work.”
It adds that 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.
It also says that statins are among the safest and the most studied medications available today.
The BHF says: “It’s important to take your medication regularly as prescribed. Most statins are taken at night, as this is when most of your cholesterol is produced. Check with your doctor or pharmacist when you should be taking your statin.”
The NHS recommends maintaining cholesterol levels below 5mmol/L.
In the UK, however, three out of five adults have a total cholesterol of 5mmol/L or above, and the average cholesterol level is about 5.7mmol/L, which can be a risk factor in heart disease.
You may not be advised to take statins if you have high cholesterol, and instead be able to lessen cholesterol through lifestyle changes.
The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any type of medicine you’re taking.
It’s run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The purpose of the scheme is to provide an early warning that the safety of a medicine or a medical device may require further investigation.
Side effects reported on Yellow Cards are evaluated, together with additional sources of information such as clinical trial data.
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