Statins side effects: Full list of ‘unwanted effects’ that require medical attention

Statins are a group of medicines that can help lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. LDL cholesterol is often called the “bad” cholesterol because it collects in the walls of your blood vessels, hiking your risk of having a heart attack. Fortunately, statins intercept this process by reducing the production of LDL cholesterol inside the liver.

Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects.

Statins are no exception to this rule and different types of statin can produce an array of unwanted effects.

Pravastatin is a type of statin available on prescription in the UK that may produce a number of nasty side effects.

“Although not all of these side effects may occur, if they do occur they may need medical attention,” explains the Mayo Clinic.

According to the health body, check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:

More common

  • Difficulty with moving
  • muscle or bone pain
  • muscle stiffness
  • pain in the joints
  • pain, localised.

Less common

  • Arm, back, or jaw pain
  • Chest pain, discomfort, or tightness
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Dark-coloured urine
  • diarrhoea
  • difficult or laboured breathing
  • Ear congestion
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Fever
  • General feeling of discomfort or illness
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle cramps, spasms, tenderness, wasting, or weakness
  • Nausea
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Shivering
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Sweating
  • Swollen joints
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Vomiting.

It must be stated that many people who take statins experience no or very few side effects.

According to the NHS, your doctor should discuss the risks and benefits of taking statins if they’re offered to you.

The risks of any side effects also have to be balanced against the benefits of preventing serious problems.

A review of scientific studies into the effectiveness of statins found around one in every 50 people who take the medicine for five years will avoid a serious event, such as a heart attack or stroke, as a result.

The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from any type of medicine you’re taking.

It’s run by a medicines safety watchdog called the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Alternative approaches for lowering high cholesterol

High cholesterol levels can also be lowered by making healthy lifestyle changes.

According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), if you have high cholesterol, it’s most important to eat less saturated fat.

Foods that are high in saturated fats are things like fatty and processed meat, pies and pastry, butter, cream, and coconut oil.

As the BHF explains, some foods contain dietary cholesterol but surprisingly they don’t make a big difference to the cholesterol in your blood.

These are foods like eggs, some shellfish like prawns and crab and offal such as liver, liver pate and kidney.

“They are low in saturated fat and so are fine to eat as part of a healthy diet,” explains the BHF.

In addition to eating well, exercise is integral to lowering high cholesterol levels.

“Adults should aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of intense activity every week,” says cholesterol charity Heart UK.