Statins and alcohol: Is it safe to drink alcohol while taking statins? Urgent advice

Statins: How the drug prevents heart attacks and strokes

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Statins reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol in your blood by slowing down the production of cholesterol by your liver. LDL cholesterol is a waxy substance that clings to the inside of your arteries, a mechanism that raises your risk of heart disease. The benefits of taking statins generally outweigh the risks, but it is important to be aware of the side effects associated with the cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Statins can interact with certain lifestyle decisions, giving rise to serious side effects in the process.

It is understandable to be apprehensive about drinking alcohol if you’re on statins, but you can drink alcohol while taking them, notes LloydsPharmacy.

However, as the health body notes, “drinking a lot of alcohol may mean you’re more likely to get muscle and liver side effects”.

These side effects can occur if you’re taking atorvastatin and drinking alcohol excessively, it says.

Atorvastatin is a commonly prescribed statin.

According to UK health guidelines, you should try not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

It’s best to spread this evenly over three or more days. A standard glass of wine (175ml) is two units. A pint of lager or beer is usually two to three units of alcohol.

General statin side effects

Side effects can vary between different statins, but common side effects include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling sick
  • Feeling unusually tired or physically weak
  • Digestive system problems, such as constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion or farting
  • Muscle pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Low blood platelet count.

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According to the NHS, many people who take statins experience no or very few side effects.

“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.

How to lower cholesterol levels naturally

You can also lower high cholesterol levels by improving aspects of your lifestyle.

Changing what foods you eat can lower your cholesterol and improve your overall heart health.

Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways.

“Some deliver soluble fibre, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they get into circulation,” explains Harvard Health.

Soluble fibre is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.

Some foods give you polyunsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL, notes Harvard Health.

Foods high in polyunsaturated fat include a number of plant-based oils, such as:

  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Sunflower oil.

Other sources include some nuts and seeds such as walnuts and sunflower seeds, tofu and soybeans.

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