These Common Cholesterol Medications Have Surprisingly Dangerous Side Effects

Lipitor and Zocor are just two familiar names that people readily associate with cholesterol. That’s probably because a reported one in four Americans over 45 years old take cholesterol medication. But while their names are familiar, the side effects of these common drugs are less well-known. And they are also quite scary. Not sure what the dangerous side effects of these common cholesterol medications are? Let us enlighten you.

Muscle damage

Young woman with back pain

Your cholesterol may be lower but you will feel weak. | iStock.com/halfbottle

Many cholesterol-reducing medications are statins — a type of drug that lowers cholesterol in the blood. One common side effect from statins is muscle pain and weakness. But in severe cases, your muscles can become damaged. Individuals can also develop rhabdomyolysis, a rare condition that kills muscle tissue and can damage your organs.

Liver damage

illustration showing male liver anatomy

Liver damage can lead to some serious issues. | iStock.com/sankalpmaya

In many cases, statins like Lipitor cause abnormal liver tests. While the tests can normalize, this can also develop into a much more serious problem and lead to liver damage. As WedMD explains, your doctor should regularly test your liver while you are on cholesterol meds. Tell your doctor immediately if your skin starts to turn yellow or if you have dark-colored urine — these are signs of liver issues.

Increased risk of diabetes

Male Diabetic Checking Blood Sugar

Your risk of developing diabetes will increase. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Mayo Clinic tells us that taking a statin for cholesterol control can raise your blood sugar. While the increase is generally mild, it can also lead to type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, statins can also decrease the risk of heart attack in diabetes patients. If you already have diabetes, have your doctor help you weigh the pros and cons before starting a medication.

Kidney problems

kidney cross section

Some statins can make kidney failure worse. | iStock.com/HYWARDS

Developing rhabdomyolysis can hurt many of your vital organs, including your kidneys. WebMD points out that taking high levels of statins, like the popular cholesterol drug Crestor, is connected to acute kidney injury. Moreover, statins have also been found to make kidney failure worse.

Memory loss

3D image of a brain

Memory loss is a common side effect of statins. | iStock.com

Like with many powerful medications, cholesterol drugs can affect your brain. When it comes to statins, memory loss and confusion are dangerous side effects that are quite common. Mayo Clinic tells us that the connection between cholesterol meds and loss of memory is still being studied.

Pregnancy issues

Pregnant woman laying down

Do not take statins if you are pregnant. | iStock.com

In fact, pregnant women are cautioned to not take this kind of cholesterol drug at all. Statins have been shown to cause birth defects because they can cross the placenta and affect a developing embryo. It is also explained that cholesterol naturally rises in pregnant women, so there’s really no need for a drug like Zocor during pregnancy.

Increased cancer risk

Doctor looking at an x-ray

You’re more likely to develop cancer while taking statins. | Remains/iStock/Getty Images

There has been some controversy over whether or not these potent cholesterol meds prevent or promote cancer. But through all the conflicting information, the National Center for Biotechnology Information has concluded that statins do raise the likelihood of cancer in certain populations.

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