Millions of Americans take statins to lower their cholesterol, but many more who could benefit from them don't out of concern over potential side effects. But Dr. Stephen Kopecky (Koh-PET-ski), a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, says a lot of those concerns are based on myths.
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As many as half of all American adults could benefit from taking statins to lower their cholesterol, but far fewer actually take statins. Dr. Kopecky thinks many people avoid the cholesterol-lowering drugs because they misunderstand some of the side effects.
"Statins can raise blood sugar," Dr. Kopecky says. "In fact, there is a risk for becoming a diabetic if you're on a statin."
But he says that isn't the whole story.
"The people that become diabetics were almost always going to become a diabetic anyway," Dr. Kopecky says. "They just ... would have been, like, three or four months later if they weren't on a statin. The other thing is that for every one patient that does become a diabetic, there are usually about five heart attacks that are prevented."
Dr. Kopecky says many people avoid taking statins because they think they cause dementia or Alzheimer's disease, but ...
"... there is no evidence of that," he says.
Dr. Kopecky says statins are generally very safe and could improve the health of a lot of people.
But whether or not you take a drug to lower your cholesterol or not, the best thing you can do for your heart health is eat healthier foods and be more active.