Statin drugs are a class of prescription drugs used to prevent heart attacks and strokes by lowering cholesterol levels. Even though healthy people use them for prevention, they’re mainly recommended for people with cardiovascular disease. Statins are also used to reduce cholesterol level in children with familial hypercholesterolemia.
There are different varieties of statins available in the market and they’re divided into two groups as shown below:
- High-intensity statin drugs. These include atorvastatin and rosuvastatin.
- Moderate-intensity statin drugs. These include fluvastatin, lovastatin, pitavastatin, pravastatin, and simvastatin.
All these drugs are effective and function in a similar manner. However, our bodies respond differently to each type. So it’s advisable to find one that your body responds best to.
Like almost every other drug, statins also have side effects. There are:
- Muscle pain and soreness.
- Rhabdomyolysis which is a condition in which the muscles are damaged.
- An increased risk of diabetes mellitus.
- Inhibition of the enzyme that facilitates the production of cholesterol in the liver.
- Probable liver damage.
- Confusion and memory loss.
With time, these side effects may get better. There is also the option of changing your dose or switching to other varieties of the drug. Eating the grapefruit or taking grape juice increases the severity of the side effect. Grapes interfere with the drug’s break down, causing it to build up in the blood.
Once you stop using the statin drugs, the body functioning will return back to normal. Some side effects take a day while others take several weeks or even months.
Getting Off Statin Drugs
You definitely don’t want to be using statin for the rest of your life. This is mainly because of the side effects associated with its use. When you get off statins entirely, you will need to switch to different cholesterol regulating drugs or adopt a better lifestyle.
Below are top 10 ways to help you stop taking statin drugs:
Consult your doctor
You need to let the doctor who prescribed the statin drugs for you know about your intentions to quit. This is so that they can review you and recommend the best action to take. Your physician will then walk you through all the available alternatives in regards to the lifestyle changes you can make before you stop taking the statin drugs.
Make sure to get their permission before you quit. After giving their approval on your intentions, your doctor will then help you put together a plan to guide you through the journey. Let them know of your expected targets in the lifestyle modification program.
Adopt a better diet
Add more leafy greens like spinach to your diet. A plant-based diet will effectively cleanse your body and rid it of any excess fat. It is almost impossible to exceed the set caloric intake by consuming fruits and vegetables.
You need to remove carbohydrates, sugars and animal proteins from your diet. Replace them with plant proteins such as lentils.
Make sure that your daily cholesterol does not exceed 200mg and that the saturated fats do not exceed 7% of your total dietary calories. For adults, the calorie intake should be between 1500 (for women) and 1800 (for men).
Also, eat more foods that are fortified with either psyllium or phytosterols and those that contain natural soluble fiber. Barley and oat are examples of foods rich in natural soluble fiber and have been proven to mildly lower cholesterol levels.
It is recommended that you work out for at least five times in a week. Each daily work out should last a minimum of 30 minutes.
I cannot overemphasize on the importance of taking regular walks. It is a great way to exercise as it works your hips and back without putting too much pressure on your legs and knees. You could also incorporate some jogging and running if you enjoy doing it.
Other forms of exercise that are recommended are playing tennis, riding a bicycle, and ballroom dancing. For those who go to the gym, they could try weight lifting.
Watch your weight
Your BMI (body mass index) should always be below 25. Body mass index is a representation of your total body weight in relation to fat, as a percentage.
If you are planning to stop taking statin drugs or already have, it is advisable to lose some weight. Set a target and work towards achieving it.
Make sure to maintain an ideal body weight and not to gain any weight.
Get proper sleep
Unlike popular belief, six hours of sleep are not enough. It is recommended that one gets around eight to 10 hours of sleep daily. When one is well rested, their stress levels are generally low.
Lack of enough sleep will cause the liver to produce more cholesterol than normal.
The most common natural supplements are vitamin B3 (niacin) and Omega-3 fatty acids which we get from fish oil. These two have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect.
The omega-3 fatty acids have an analgesic effect on aching joint. However, do not overuse niacin as it could have some harmful effects on the heart.
There are other supplements that can be added to your diet to help reduce cholesterol. An example is Mevastatin which is produced by red rice yeast.
Drink red wine and fruit juices
Red wine contains an antioxidant called resveratrol which helps to keep your heart healthy. Taking a single glass of wine daily, for three days a week will help a great deal with cholesterol reduction.
Foods that contain pectin such as apples and grapes play a major role in eliminating cholesterol.
Flaxseeds contain ingredients that aid in keeping your heart healthy. Your heart’s rhythm will be more stabilized.
The flaxseeds contain the plant version of omega-3 fatty acids called lignans. These lignans have antioxidant properties and contain estrogen found in plants. They also contain soluble and insoluble fiber.
Discontinue statin use
Feel free to stop using the statin drugs as soon as the therapeutic effects of the above lifestyle changes start taking effect. This will be after a period of approximately two months. Your doctor will test the lipid levels in your blood and give a go ahead.
Stopping use of statin drugs can be done in two ways. One is where you wean yourself off statins and the second is the cold turkey where you”just stop” taking the medication abruptly. The second option increases your chances of stroke.
When your body is used to you taking a particular drug for long, there will be consequences when you discontinue use. These consequences can either manifest themselves as withdrawal symptoms or worsened side effects.
The “cold turkey” syndrome has some withdrawal symptoms which include:
- Mild tangling in the face and hands
- Dizziness and tiredness
- Muscle and joint pain
- Irritability and depression
- Blurred vision
- Poor concentration
- Memory loss
It is therefore advisable to wean off slowly.
Switch to another cholesterol medication
There are different drugs can take statin’s place in terms of functionality and keep your cholesterol levels within safe levels. Look into the various non-statin drugs that are used to. Examples of non-statin drugs include ezetimibe, niacin and cholestyramine.
Statin drugs are usually the most effective drugs among all the available cholesterol-lowering medications. They have numerous documented benefits which sometimes might outweigh the side effects associated with them. So before you stop using statin drugs, remember that taking them does not produce life-threatening side effects while discontinuation might.
Whatever your reason is for wanting to stop taking the statin drugs, it’s really important that you first get your doctor’s opinion. When they give a go ahead, they will suggest a plan to guide you. Doctors advise that if you have a history of heart attack or stroke, you should not stop taking statins.
Lastly, make sure to maintain a healthy lifestyle for more permanent results in keeping your cholesterol levels under control. This is because discontinuation will put you at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.