Statin link to muscle pain poorly understood: 11 alternatives to help your heart

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Cholesterol drugs cause muscle pain: 11 alternative to protect your heart health

Researchers writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) highlight the painful truth about cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins that can cause musculoskeletal problems including pain, injury and muscle weakness. The reasons are still poorly understood. There are natural ways to tackle heart disease if you want to avoid taking the drugs.

Taking cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins is a recommended therapy for preventing heart disease and lowering the chances of having of a first or even second heart attack. But the side effects raise questions about prescribing the drugs for very active and younger people.

Muscle and joint pain is a major issue for many patients taking statin drugs. The current study authors suggest the range of musculoskeletal problems associated with the cholesterol lowering drugs has still not been fully explored.

For their study, Ishak Mansi, M.D., of the VA North Texas Health Care System, Dallas, and colleagues looked at information from a military health care system to find out how widespread complaints of muscle weakness, injuries and pain occurred in people using the drugs; compared to non-users.


The researchers matched 6,967 statin users with 6,967 people not taking the cholesterol drugs.

Active people taking cholesterol drugs were more likely to experience “musculoskeletal conditions, arthropathies, injuries and pain…,” the study authors wrote.

The researchers say the studies are ‘concerning’ because giving cholesterol lowering drugs at a young age has been recently advocated. Some studies suggest the medications are over-prescribed.

The childhood obesity epidemic has prompted the suggestions that children be given statin therapy to prevent future heart risks and many children are currently taking the drugs who fail to respond to lifestyle interventions.

Alternatives to taking statins

  1. Lose weight
  2. Exercise that can be as simple as a walking program.
  3. Follow a heart healthy diet recommended by the American Heart Association
  4. Add more beneficial oils to the diet in the form of omega-3 fatty acids that come from fish
  5. Consume more fiber
  6. Learn to cope with stress. Practice meditation, yoga or even biofeedback. Learn to control anger.
  7. If your local hospital offers Dr. Dean Ornish’s program to reverse heart disease, take advantage by enrolling. The program is paid for by Medicare.
  8. Learn more about your ‘good’ HDL and ‘bad’ LDL numbers and particle size to really understand your risks. Ask your doctor for a special test that measures cholesterol particle size and good to bad cholesterol ratios.
  9. Try plant sterols that are found in buttery spreads and can be purchased as supplements.
  10. If you have existing heart disease, ask your doctor about taking the lowest statin dose possible. Make sure you follow up with for regular blood testing that can detect muscle and liver damage.
  11. Consider a plant based diet. There is evidence that a vegetarian lifestyle can lower the risk of dying from heart disease and all causes.

The study suggests more research is needed to understand musculoskeletal problems linked to taking cholesterol drugs known as statins. If you want to avoid the drugs, consider the above 11 ways to tackle high cholesterol and lower your chances of heart attack. Discuss your options with your health care provider.