Close Encounters of the Statin Kind

I scheduled an appointment with my doctor on March 11 because of an intestinal virus I had been struggling with for over 3 weeks.  By appointment time, I finally felt that I was over the virus, but I told her that during the previous week I had been experiencing a “gurgling” sensation in my throat during the night — similar to what I experienced prior to my heart surgery in 1995. During the past week I had also been experiencing some minor chest pains/discomfort. I thought both these symptoms might be left over from the intestinal virus, but wanted to see if she felt they should be checked out.

She took an EKG on the spot and after reviewing with me my family history of heart disease (my maternal grandmother died of congestive heart failure at age 68, my paternal grandmother died of a heart attack at age 62 and my dad had quadruple bypass surgery at age 58), she decided that I needed to have an echocardiogram and a stress test that she scheduled for that afternoon.  The stress test showed some “abnormalities” so I was scheduled for a “Myocardial Perfusion Study” the next day to see if I had any blocked arteries. I got a call from Kaiser the next day to let me know that I had been assigned a cardiologist and an appointment had been set up for March 15.

The cardiologist told me the tests revealed that I had some minor blockages in a few small arteries in my upper heart and gave me the choice of having further, more invasive tests, or resuming my normal exercise schedule (something I had stopped as a result of the virus) and to wait and see if my symptoms recurred. I opted for no further tests and she then recommended that I start taking a stain drug (Pravastatin – 20 mg) that she felt would benefit me. I was relieved by the test results and agreed to taking the drug (as much as I really hate taking any medication).

I started taking the statin on March 22.  I noticed no adverse reactions that I associated with the drug. I resumed my water aerobics exercise program 3 times a week. I started feeling muscle aches in my legs and my upper back but associated that with resuming my exercise program.  By the first week in April the pain in the middle of my upper back was excruciating. I had an appointment with my chiropractor who worked on the area but the pain continued to worsen as did a new pain on the left side of my lower back (something I associated with the pain I experienced when I had a kidney stone attack the year before).  I was unable to get a good night’s sleep because of the pain. I felt “foggy” throughout the day and had difficulty concentrating on my work but I associated that with not getting a good night’s sleep. I also noticed that I was having memory lapses.

On April 19 I had a severe attack of diarrhea and nausea. I have been on a gluten-free diet for over a year, but on that day I had a pizza at a local restaurant. I ordered the pizza as part of an experiment to see if the gluten-peptide digesting enzymes I had purchased would do what they were advertised to do — help digest gluten! Well, they did not work and the result was the onset of diarrhea and nausea. Those symptoms continued for the next two days.  On April 22 I went to my water aerobics. The back and leg pain was worse and I had a difficult time finishing the routine.  My water aerobics partner asked me if I had considered that the pain I was experiencing might be the result of the statin medication.  A light-bulb went off in my head!  It had never occurred to me that the statin might be responsible for my symptoms because the symptoms didn’t start immediately after I started taking the drug. That night I went to bed asking my angels to give me some insight into was was going on with my body.

The next morning (April 23) I received an email that had a link to a movie: The Great Cholesterol Cover-Up: Statin Nation.

The movie was eye-opening to say the least.  It made me decide to immediately stop taking my statin medication in order to see if my symptoms subsided and to do additional online research. On April 24 I went to water aerobics and was able to finish the routine without a problem.  That night I had some mild discomfort during the night but it was managable and I was able to get a good night’s sleep. Today is April 25 and I’m happy to report that my upper back pain is gone and the mental fogginess I have been experiencing seems to have lifted. I feel I’m on the road to recovery and really dodged the statin-bullet before having to endure any further suffering.

I highly recommend anyone who is taking a statin medication to watch this movie. I actually ordered the DVD so that I could watch it again with my husband who is also taking a statin medication.

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