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Statins: How the drug prevents heart attacks and strokes

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Statins slash your risk of heart disease by reducing the production of cholesterol inside the liver. The drug is usually recommended if lifestyle changes have failed to sufficiently bring cholesterol levels under control. Despite their clear benefits, statins can cause side effects, although they are rare.

According Hussain Abdeh, Superintendent Pharmacist at Medicine Direct, statin use has been shown to cause “calcium leak” in the muscles.

The pharmacist cited research published in the journal JACC: Basic to Translational Science.

According to the research, statins cause spontaneous and irregular leaks of calcium from storage compartments within muscle cells.

Under normal conditions, coordinated releases of calcium from these stores make the muscles contract.

Unregulated calcium leaks may cause damage to muscle cells, potentially leading to muscle pain and weakness, coumadin interaction with st johns wort the researchers warned.

The researchers suggested that in most people, muscle cells can tolerate this calcium leak.

However, in people already susceptible due to their genes or lifestyle, the leak caused by statins may overwhelm the muscle cells, giving rise to muscle pain and weakness.

However, “exercising may stop the changes in the body that cause calcium leaks in the first place”, Mr Abeh said, referring to the study’s findings.

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The researchers showed that moderate exercise may prevent the changes which lead to calcium leaks from occurring, and it may be an effective way for people taking statins to avoid muscle symptoms.

“It is best to exercise moderately to avoid muscle-related side effects of taking statins,” Mr Abdeh concluded.

Intense exercise, on the other hand, could amplify the side effect, the pharmacist warned.

Mr Abdeh said: “Statins have been shown to be unsuitable for most professional athletes due to the intense physical activity their bodies endure on a regular basis.

“Intense endurance affects the gatekeeper proteins (ryanodine receptors) that are targeted by statins, which overstrains the muscles.

“When these proteins are compromised by taking statins, the calcium leaks can result in cell death.”

According to the pharmacist, the theory that moderate exercise can counteract the effects of statins on the muscles comes from animal research.

“Researchers gave rats free access to an exercise wheel, and they found that the proteins were no longer affected by statins, which meant that the cells were not harmed.”

He added: “The rats that were treated with statins ran double the length of rats that were not given statins.”

What counts as moderate exercise?

To perform at moderate intensity, you need to be moving quick enough to raise your heart rate, breathe faster and feel warmer.

“If you’re working at a moderate intensity you should still be able to talk but you won’t be able to sing the words to a song,” explains the NHS.

It adds: “An activity where you have to work even harder is called vigorous intensity activity.”

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