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Do statins make you tired?

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Feeling tired on statinsHow to manageOther side effectsAre side effects immediate?Rare side effectsOther cholesterol medsSummary
Fatigue or low energy may be side effects of statins like atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor), and rosuvastatin (Crestor). Not everyone taking statin drugs reports feeling tired, though. This and other side effects may depend on different factors.
Medically reviewed by Alisha D. Sellers, BS Pharmacy, PharmD
Written by Rashida Ruwa, RN
Updated on

Statins are medications commonly prescribed for managing high cholesterol levels. They work by inhibiting an enzyme in the liver known as HMG-CoA reductase. 

By reducing this enzyme activity, statins effectively help lower cholesterol levels in the bloodstream, thus reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Commonly prescribed statins include:

As with most other medications, side effects are possible although not everyone taking statins will experience the same ones.

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Is fatigue a side effect of statins?

Man doing gardening in his balcony while feeling tired from statin drug use
Photography by Ibnjaafar/Getty Images

According to a 2015 research article, some people report fatigue as a side effect of statins. While the exact mechanism is not fully understood, a few potential factors may lead to statin-induced fatigue.

One possibility statins make you feel tired is that they disrupt the production of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a substance involved in cellular energy production. 

Additionally, per research published in 2019, statins may affect the mevalonate pathway, which produces various compounds in the body, including cholesterol, vitamin D, and certain hormones. Alterations in these pathways could lead you to feel tired as well. 

However, not everyone taking statins feels tired or low in energy. In fact, many people tolerate statins well. It is also possible that you are more sensitive to one statin than the rest and do not experience fatigue with a different statin drug.

Overall health, pharmaceutical treatments, and other individual factors may account for the differences across experiences.

How to manage fatigue from statins

If statins make you tired, the following strategies may help manage this symptom:

  • CoQ10 supplementation: Some research suggests supplementing with coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) may help alleviate statin-induced fatigue and muscular pain. CoQ10 is involved in cellular energy production, and statins may lower its levels in the body.    
  • Consider alternative medications: Sometimes, a healthcare professional may recommend switching to a different statin or considering alternative cholesterol-lowering medications if the fatigue persists.
  • Lifestyle modifications: Adopting lifestyle changes may help address fatigue from statins and improve overall well-being. Incorporating regular physical activity, eating nutrient-dense foods, and getting at least 7 hours of daily sleep may positively affect your fatigue levels.

Experiences with statin treatment may vary, and what works for one person may not work for another. Therefore, consider talking with a healthcare professional to determine the best approach for managing fatigue while taking statins.

Other side effects of statins

While statins are generally well tolerated by most people, like any medication, they may lead to side effects. 

Some physical side effects that have been reported with statin use include:

  • Muscle symptoms: This can include muscle pain, weakness, or cramping, leading to a condition called statin-associated muscle symptoms (SAMS).
  • Liver abnormalities: Statin use may sometimes cause mild elevations in liver enzymes, although chronic and serious liver problems are rare.
  • Digestive problems: Some people taking statins may experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, or constipation.
  • Increased blood sugar levels: Statins have been associated with a slight increase in blood sugar levels, which can be concerning for people at risk of diabetes.

Emotional and cognitive side effects of statins may include:

  • Memory difficulties: Some people may report memory challenges or confusion while taking statins. However, the evidence supporting a direct association between statins and cognitive impairment is mixed and inconclusive.
  • Mood changes: While rare, a few people may experience mood changes, such as depressive symptoms or irritability, while on statins.

How long before side effects show up?

The onset of statin side effects may vary depending on the medication, the dosage, and the individual.

While some side effects may occur immediately after starting statins, others may develop gradually.

In the same way, some people may not experience side effects at all. In sum, side effect occurrence and timing differ from person to person. 

Additionally, side effects may change as time goes by. Some statin side effects, like feeling tired, may be more common early in treatment as the body adjusts to the medication, while others, like muscle cramping, may occur after prolonged use.

It’s a good idea to monitor any changes or new symptoms you experience while taking statins and discuss them with a healthcare professional.

Rare side effects of side effects

Rare side effects of statin use may include:

  • rhabdomyolysis (severe muscle breakdown and damage)
  • allergic reactions
  • severe liver problems 
  • persistent memory or cognitive problems

Alternative meds for cholesterol

A healthcare professional may consider alternative medications if you cannot tolerate statins or are not experiencing symptom relief. These alternative meds may include:

  • PCSK9 inhibitors: These are injectable medications that increase the liver’s cholesterol uptake, resulting in lower LDL cholesterol levels. They are usually reserved for people with familial hypercholesterolemia or when medications are not effective in managing cholesterol levels.
  • Fibrates: Fibrates mainly target triglyceride levels and can also have some effect on lowering other types of cholesterol.
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplements (EPA and DHA): Omega-3 supplements, such as prescription icosapent ethyl (Vascepa), can help lower triglycerides.
  • Bile acid sequestrants: These medications bind to bile acids in the intestine, preventing their reabsorption and promoting their elimination from the body, reducing cholesterol levels.
  • Others: Ezetimibe (Zetia) is a medication that reduces cholesterol absorption from the diet. It can be used alone or in combination with other lipid-lowering medications.

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While feeling tired is a possible side effect of statin use, it is not necessarily common.

The best way to determine if your fatigue is related to statin use is to discuss options with a healthcare professional.

They can evaluate your situation, assess your medication regimen, and determine if any changes in dosage or brand are necessary. 

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