Foods that increase your risk of statin side effects
Statins are the most widely prescribed medication in the U.S. today. You may have been prescribed a statin if your doctor told you that you have high cholesterol. These drugs have been around for decades, and are well known as first-line therapy for the management of high cholesterol, particularly, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), or ‘bad cholesterol.
Statins, while taken by millions of Americans each year, are not without their risk of side effects. The most commonly reported side effects for statin medication are various forms of muscle pain, muscle cramps, and/or muscle weakness. In real-world practice, statin side effects have been reported up to 20% of the time.
What causes statin muscle pain?
Statin side effects are not well understood. What we do know is that the risk of statin side effects increases as the dose of the statin increases. As a rule of thumb, the higher the dose of statin you take, the higher the concentration of statin in your blood. This leads to a higher risk of side effects such as muscle pain.
The concentration of statin medication circulating in your blood depends on quite a few factors, including:
- Other medications you are taking: Statins can interact with other medications. Be sure to tell your doctor about any and all over-the-counter products, supplements, and prescription medications you are currently taking.
- The time of day you take your statin: Some statins need to be taken in the evening. This is because the cholesterol-making enzyme in our body is more active at night. Because some statins are removed from our bodies very quickly, you may need to take your statin in the evening to ensure the best results. Newer statins, like pitavastatin, tend to be more stable in our bodies and as a result, can be taken at any time of the day.
- Taking a statin with or without food: Food intake can change the availability of statins. Some statins need to be taken with a meal, whereas others should be taken on an empty stomach. Pitavastatin can be taken with or without food.
Why do statins interact with the food we consume?
One of the first lessons they teach doctors in medical school is that drugs can interact with other drugs as well as foods and nutritional supplements. Drug interactions are something doctors want to avoid for their patients, as they can increase the risk of side effects.
A notable interaction most people don’t think about is grapefruit juice. So why is this a problem for some statins?
Well, the problem occurs when someone drinks grapefruit juice in combination with some of the first-generation statins. What this does is block the CYP3A4 enzyme in your liver, preventing your body from processing the statin in the normal way. This results in a very large increase in the concentration of statin in your blood, and as alluded to earlier, too much statin in your blood increases your risk of side effects.
Newer Statin Medications Are Available
The good news is that there are now newer statins available in the U.S., including Zypitamag (pitavastatin). Zypitamag is a third-generation statin. It’s unique in that it bypasses the common pathways used by the liver for statin metabolism. This means it won’t interact with grapefruit juice and has a reduced potential to interact with other medications you may also be taking!
Zypitamag has been shown to reduce LDL-C, or ‘bad cholesterol’ by 45%. It should be taken once daily, with or without food, at the same time each day.
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