Why don't statin drugs damage heart muscle?

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
You ask an interesting question. The statin drugs that people take to lower cholesterol do sometimes injure the skeletal muscles that move the limbs and other parts of the body. It's not entirely clear how that happens.

The heart is a muscle. However, heart muscle (the medical term is myocardium) is built somewhat differently from the skeletal muscles. If you were to look at a piece of heart muscle under a microscope (particularly an electron microscope) you would see subtle differences between it and a piece of muscle taken from, say, your biceps. This makes sense because the two different types of muscle have very different types of jobs to do. The skeletal muscles need to work sometimes but can rest at other times, whereas the heart muscle (like the muscles that help you breathe) needs to work every minute of your life—without fail.

I did an electronic search of published medical articles since 2000 and didn't find any reports of statins adversely affecting heart muscle. In fact, just the opposite: there are several studies suggesting that statins may benefit patients with heart muscle diseases like cardiomyopathy and heart failure.

So even though statins can cause damage to skeletal muscles, don't stop taking them because your heart is a muscle. They appear to be good for that all-important muscle.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.