Should Healthy People Take Cholesterol Drugs to Prevent Heart Disease?
Some statin supporters argue that even if the data don’t support the benefits of statins in healthy people, they might help and can’t hurt. But that’s untenable, because statins undeniably harm some people. Besides increasing the risk for developing diabetes, statins can cause memory loss, muscle weakness, stomach distress, and aches and pains. These aren’t merely anecdotal results, as some critics assert; they’re documented by recent studies.
Until and unless further persuasive evidence is available that the benefits of statins outweigh the known side effects, their use should be limited to patients with known heart disease to help prevent recurrent heart attacks. Even for this population, physicians should disclose that statins likely won’t extend their life.
Fortunately, there is a proven, widely available treatment for people at high risk for heart disease that does prolong survival…. proper diet and exercise. If we were to spend a small fraction of the annual cost of statins on making fruits and vegetables and physical activity more accessible, the effect on heart disease, as well as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and overall life span, would be far greater than any benefit statins can produce.