We’ve all heard about the dangers of high cholesterol, particularly LDL (“bad cholesterol”). Many of you may be or know someone who is taking a statin drug to treat this condition. Examples include Lipitor, Zocor, Pravachol, Lescol, Mevacor, Crestor, and Vytorin (a combo pill containing Zocor). Statins interfere with an enzyme in the liver responsible for cholesterol synthesis. In 2002, guidelines were published that recommended lower target levels for LDL. A couple of years ago, new indications were approved for Lipitor and Zocor to include preventing certain cardiovascular problems, regardless if the patient has high cholesterol. As a result, more people are taking statins and higher doses are being prescribed.
Common side effects of statins include headache, rash, nausea/vomiting/diarrhea, and muscle pain/weakness. Although serious liver problems are rare, liver problems are a concern. This can present as mild muscle pain or weakness. It has been suggested that statins decrease coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) levels, which deplete muscle cells of their energy source. This may be the mechanism for causing muscle problems. Some studies have come out indicating that supplementation with CoQ10 may help relieve these symptoms. So what is CoQ10 you may ask?
CoQ10 is a vitamin-like substance naturally found in the body. Cells use it to make energy for bodily functions and it also acts as an antioxidant. It is used for heart conditions (chest pain, heart failure, and high blood pressure), certain muscular disorders, periodontal disorders, and for immune support. There is a natural decline in the amount of CoQ10 in the body with age. Coupled with the increase use of statins with age, this may warrant the consideration of CoQ10 supplementation for more people. Hopefully as more studies validate the importance of CoQ10, health care providers will become more comfortable with recommending this supplement. Don’t hesitate to discuss this topic with your heath care provider.
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