The controversy surrounding statins has reached new ground as 12 million people in the UK will be advised to take the drug in order to lower their cholesterol.
It seems likely that the majority of men over 50 and women over the age of 60 will be advised to take the drug even if they are considered low risk. Statins are used to lower bad cholesterol in the blood, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease and strokes. Statins are usually prescribed if a patient has a 20 per cent risk of contracting heart disease but the new guidelines issued by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) has reduced this to 10 per cent.
Britain already has the largest consumption of statins in the western world. It also has an obesity battle on its hands. In fact, we are the fattest nation in Europe with almost a quarter of all adults classed as obese.
General opinion is that if people eat more healthily, exercise more and smoke less they can increase their chances of lowering their own cholesterol levels before the need for drugs. Many people lead lifestyles of excess and are not willing to change. This impacts on their long term health and puts stress on the heart as its struggles to cope. It raises the question that perhaps doctors should be talking to their patients about healthy lifestyles and the long term benefits of a healthy approach to life, rather than dishing out drugs if you fit the criteria and without proper assessment.
Taking drugs, for some people, usually means some sort of side effects. Some patients have experienced muscle aches, breathlessness, memory disturbance, cataracts and diabetes. These side effects are also the reason why many people refuse to take statins and go on to make the effort to try and lower their cholesterol through diet and exercise.