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Ask Dr. Gott 7/30
Sore muscles make reader rethink statins
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    DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a 62-year-old male, weigh 225 pounds and my cholesterol is about 180. I lead a semi-active lifestyle, exercising 30 minutes daily, five times a week.
    I was on Zocor for high cholesterol and constantly complained to my doctor of sore muscles. He switched me from Zocor to Crestor a year and a half ago. After a year on Crestor, I was really miserable with sore muscles and fatigue. For the prior six months, I had not been able to raise my right arm due to a sore shoulder that still keeps me awake at night. I stopped taking the Crestor for 30 days at the end of 2007 and felt much better, except for my sore shoulder. When I notified my doctor, he then put me back on the Zocor.
    From what I have read previously in your column, if a person is over 60 and has a cholesterol level under 200, he or she shouldn't need drugs. Do I have to take medication that makes me miserable?
    DEAR READER: The purpose of these drugs is to reduce the risk of heart disease because of high cholesterol. As I have written
before, some medications for this purpose cause muscle pain, leg cramps, fatigue and a number of other symptoms. What's more, they can affect the liver, even in appropriate doses. For this reason, periodic lab testing should be done to assure levels remain within normal limits.
    Unfortunately, you did not indicate in your letter whether you have other medical conditions, particularly cardiac in nature, that would suggest your physician might want you to have total cholesterol levels below the 180 reported. If this is not the case, I don't believe you need drugs. I should also add that niacin and flax seed oil could be taken without prescription and have been reported to reduce cholesterol levels. Still, lab testing should be done periodically.
    In any event, I urge you to return to your physician for an explanation and guidance. If he has a strong basis for wanting you to have lower readings, find out what they are. Ask for a trial without medication while on a restricted diet. Make sure you get your questions answered to your satisfaction.
    I would also like to comment on your doctor's prescription decision. You say you have had side effects from Zocor. At that time, your doctor appropriately switched you to another medication. However, you continued to have adverse reactions. Now comes the problem. Your physician put you back on the medication that caused the reason for the switch in the first place. This is downright dumb. You have a prior history of side effects and should not have been put back on that medication. If you truly need medication, you need to try a new one that will not make you sick.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Understanding Cholesterol."
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