Adverse effects of statins are rare, says the European Society of Cardiology

By William L. Driscoll

In deciding on a statin prescription to slow the progression of artery-clogging (atherosclerosis), a patient and doctor weigh the benefits of treatment against the potential adverse side effects of the statin.

Adverse effects of statin therapy are rare, said the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), in its 2021 guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention.

Because many patients will want to know more than that basic information, here are some specifics.

Read the free book on “bad” LDL cholesterol, healthy diets, statin safety, and ultrasound artery screening, at the home page:

Myopathy and rhabdomyolysis

The most frequent adverse effect of statin therapy is myopathy, a muscle disorder, the ESC guidelines say “but this is rare.”[1]

The most serious adverse effect, rhabdomyolysis is “extremely rare,” say the ESC guidelines.

Muscle weakness is the primary symptom of myopathy, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.[2]

The Mayo Clinic notes that rhabdomyolysis or milder forms of muscle inflammation from statins can be diagnosed with a blood test measuring levels of the enzyme creatinine kinase. The Mayo Clinic advises that “if you notice moderate or severe muscle aches after starting to take a statin, contact your doctor.”[3]

Increased risk of diabetes

Increased blood sugar levels that increase the risk of diabetes can occur after statin treatment begins and are “dose dependent, in part linked to slight weight gain,” say the ESC guidelines, adding that the benefits of statins “outweigh the risks for the majority of patients.”

In medical journal articles, the issue of statin side effects is often discussed in terms of patients who do not tolerate statins.

The ESC’s full summary of adverse effects from statin therapy are available its guidelines, under section, from the link in the footnotes below.

To learn more about maintaining healthy arteries, see

[1] European Society of Cardiology, “2021 ESC Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice” (see section OR



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