Statins are a group of drugs specifically prescribed to prevent heart diseases which are caused due to increased amount of cholesterol or triglycerides in an individual. Statins produce the required results by working on the enzyme required to produce cholesterol in the liver. This helps in reduction of cholesterol and also work on reduction of LDL in our body. These drugs are also known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. Discovered way back in the 1980s, their prescription and consumption has been under the radar for possible side effects.
Statins and their side effects
It is a proven fact that high doses of a certain kind of statins cause several side effects. This led to a communication released by U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently about the possible side effects of statins and the necessary actions to be taken. Listed below are a few such side effects. These side effects vary as per the statin prescribed, dosage and the immunity levels of the individual using statins.
- Muscular diseases like Myopathy which is characterized by soreness of muscles due the increase of enzyme (creatine Kinase) in the blood with the prolonged use of Statins.
- In severe cases, Myopathy leads to rhabdomylosis which is a condition when the muscle fibers are ruptured and a protein namely myoglobin is released. This protein causes damage to the kidneys which can prove fatal to the individual. Dark or red urine and severe fatigue is the
preliminary symptoms of this disease.
- Memory loss
- Muscular weakness leading to neuropathy characterized by numbness, tingling sensation at the nerves. This if left untreated, leads to severe deterioration of the muscles eventually leading to paralysis.
- Other secondary side effects are mood swings leading to behavioral changes
Care should be taken and medical intervention should be sought immediately when any symptoms are noticed in an individual while taking Statins.
Natural Alternatives to Statins
There is increasing awareness of the side effects of using statins. Many individuals with heart diseases or high cholesterol are looking to switch to natural alternatives to statins or natural statins as they are widely known, to protect themselves from the potential side effects of statins.
Natural statins in food
Vitamin C: It is been recently proven that Vitamin C levels in an individual have a direct influence on the cardiovascular health. Ascorbic acid present in Vitamin C is the perfect natural statin and acts as an inhibitor for the production of excess LDL cholesterol. Vitamin C can be obtained from natural sources like oranges. In severe cases the optimum dosage can be acquired from Vitamin C supplements available in the market.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin): This water soluble B Vitamin is a powerful natural statin and can be found in sources like whole green vegetables, meat ,grains and milk. This impacts cholesterol by increasing HDL.
Herbs: The following herbs are considered effective natural statins.
- Garlic: Regular consumption of this herb which is characterized by its strong smell and taste helps in regulating cholesterol levels. This powerful natural statin is proven to have shown its effects within a short span of 4-12 weeks. It inhibits growth of LDL and cholesterol deposits in the blood vessels.
- Guggul Lipid: This herb is also known as Commiphora Mukul or the Indian Bedellium . This is obtained from the tree Commiphora and has proven effects on reduction of cholesterol and maintaining healthy HDL to LDL cholesterol ratios. This is available worldwide in the form of tablets or capsules.
- Turmeric Root (Curcumin): Regular consumption of this lesser known natural statin is effective for treating all
cardiovascular problems. This helps the liver in processing cholesterol and in the process eliminates any excess cholesterol.
Fibrous foods: Regular consumption of fibrous grains like oats and barley, fibrous vegetables like beans and carrots, fibrous fruits like apples, avocados and berries play a significant role in reduction of cholesterol. Fibre in these foods act as natural statins by transmitting the excess cholesterol into the bowel; rather than allowing it to circulate and coagulate into the blood stream.
Fish Oil and Flax seeds: The American Heart Association recommends the regular usage of fish oil to reduce cholesterol and the number of triglycerides making it one of the most sought after natural statin. Fish oil contains Omega 3 fatty acids which regulate
lipid production and enhance the good cholesterol (HDL). Flaxseeds are the other natural statins which have a similar amount of Omega 3 fatty acids. These are plant derivatives and can be used in baking or as a topping on salads. Fish oil can be obtained by consuming oil rich fish eg: Salmon, mackerel etc regularly or by taking an optimum dosage of fish oil capsules available over the counter.
Red yeast rice extract: This natural statin is derived by fermenting rice with red yeast. This product was used in Asian cuisine as a coloring and flavoring agent. However it was soon discovered that a by-product of this fermentation called Monacolin K helps in
lowering cholesterol and decreasing the number of triglycerides in an individual. Hence regular usage of red yeast rice extract is recommended. However this natural statin has its fair share of controversies surrounding its sale and usage as per the laws of the FDA.
Policasanol: Policasanol is another powerful natural statin which is slowly gaining popularity. This is sourced from sugarcane. This unrefined natural sugar is available in organic markets in the form of capsules and has a plethora of benefits including preventing blood clots, regulating blood pressure and decrease in LDL. This is the only natural statin which has proven benefits of also increasing HDL (good cholesterol) in the body. It also aids in regulation of weight in obese people.
Fermented soy products: Fermented soy products like tofu, tempeh and miso also have cholesterol reduction properties and act as natural statins.
All the above natural Statins in a combination with a balanced diet and regular exercise can ensure that heart diseases are avoided and the side effects caused by prescription statins are kept at bay.