As many of you know, for years I’ve warned that while statins have a bright side for some people—they also have an enormous dark side. Now, new research on statins and aging is giving me reason to pause even more.
For a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, researchers at Tulane University treated stem cells—the cells in the body that repair damaged tissue—with statins. What they found is that statins damage stem cells, keeping them from replicating normally. This is important because stem cells are what protects our brain, joints, and muscles from damage—the same systems in our bodies that are greatly impacted as we age.
This new study adds to the growing volume of research showing that statins can cause a number of accelerated aging problems including damage to the joints and muscles, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, and more. It is certainly something to be concerned about. In fact, I remember reading in the Archives of Neurology several years ago that statins could even predispose people to Alzheimer’s disease, accelerating the onset by as much as 15 years.
To Mitigate the Side Effects of Statins, We Need to Look at the Benefit-to-Risk Ratio
In my experience, as I’ve said many times before, one of the only groups I recommend statins for is men under the age of 75 with coronary artery disease. That population has the most to gain from taking statins.
However, when treating women—even those with coronary artery disease—I’ve hesitated to recommend statins unless I was losing the battle with my patient. Young women with high cholesterol, or even children with high cholesterol, should almost never take statins. That’s because for these populations, the side effects of statins far outweigh the benefits.
Remember, as I stated many times before cholesterol does good things for the body and in most instances cholesterol is your friend and not your enemy. Your body needs cholesterol for immune health, brain function, and more. In fact, driving your cholesterol too low with statins can impair your health significantly.
This newest research on statins and aging is yet another nail in the coffin for the proponents that recommend statins for primary prevention. In fact, this research along with the research done on Gulf War Syndrome and statins clearly demonstrates that when you do take a statin and become symptomatic you could be putting your body at war with itself.
As I’ve said before, statins have their bright side. But the cavalier use in patients with high cholesterol is not smart medicine in my book.
- Izadpanah et al. American Journal of Physiology 2015.