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Jun 23, 2014

Statin Use Hampers Physical Activity in Older Men

Side effects from cholesterol-lowering statins discourage physical activity among older men, finds study.

Side effects from statins may discourage physical activity among older men, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For patients with high cholesterol, statins can be life-saving. By lowering cholesterol levels, statins help reduce risk for heart attack and stroke. But like all drugs, statins can have side effects—the most common side effects being muscle pain, fatigue or weakness. Unfortunately, these muscle symptoms may have a negative impact on physical activity levels among statin-users.

Using data from the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study, which included almost 6,000 men 65 years and older living in retirement communities, researchers analyzed the physical activity levels of men taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. Roughly half of study participants took statins during the study period, and compared to those not on cholesterol-lowering drugs, men taking statins were significantly less active. Not only did men taking statins engage in less moderate and vigorous physical activity, they had more sedentary time than non-statin users.

Since statin use is common, especially in older adults, authors worry about the impact of muscle symptoms on physical activity and overall health. Physical activity is key to good health, especially as we get older, and few older adults get enough exercise as it is. As a result, authors encourage future research to better understand the impact of statin use on physical activity and most importantly, identify ways to increase physical activity among older adults.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How much activity do older adults need?
  • Current guidelines recommend that adults 65 years of age or older (without limiting health conditions) get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise like brisk walking each week, plus muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.
  • What are statins?
  • Statins are drugs used to lower cholesterol. They help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol, which can help prevent heart attack and stroke. Statins prevent your body from making new cholesterol and may help reduce the amount of plaque already built up on artery walls.

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