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Lipitor Side Effects

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Cholesterol: the word is probably the last one you want to hear your doctor pronounce during your next visit. In this way, you're not unlike many people. Unfortunately, we live in a time when, despite the ubiquity of fitness centers and diet shakes, unhealthy eating and living continue to create heart problems the world over.

A lot of this has to do with cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is an organic chemical produced in small amounts by your body, and it is used in many biological functions. As with anything, however, it is harmful when you have too much of it–-this is especially true for the heart. High cholesterol levels have been shown time and again to increase the risk of heart problems in many medical patients.

Here it's important to distinguish, however, what kind of cholesterol we're talking about. High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels have generally corresponded with better health: they're used to transport cholesterol back to the liver, where it's processed and then excreted. On the other hand, Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol molecules, which differ from their high-density cousins only slightly, tend to correspond with an increased chance of heart disease.

There are various ways to combat high levels of LDL cholesterol, including exercise and a healthy diet. Recently, however, a number of prescription drugs have appeared on the market that can also reduce LDL levels. One of the most popular of these (it was the best-selling pharmaceutical drug in the world in 2004, with $10.4 billion in sales in the US alone) is Lipitor.

Wonder Drug?

Lipitor's success, however, has produced the usual worries about side effects. What does this so-called "wonder-drug" do to your body? Is taking it as easy, say, as swallowing a pair of Aspirin? Or are there any dangers to keep in mind? As one might expect, there has been a fair amount of controversy along these lines.

The most basic side effects of Lipitor are not too dramatic. Headaches, fever, nausea, and a few other common symptoms can result from frequent use. However, this is really not unlike many other prescription drugs, which tend to unbalance certain parts of our body temporarily as they help other parts fight back against specific conditions or diseases. Looked at from a certain point of view, you might even say that the aforementioned side effects are on par with another common "medicine"--alcohol!

Serious Side Effects

More worrisome, however, are the various organ- and muscle-related side effects of Lipitor. The Lipitor website even admits that Lipitor, though an effective way for most people to reduce LDL cholesterol levels, can have "serious side effects" ( People with liver-disease or liver-related complications, for example, are exhorted to avoid Lipitor, or at the very least to ask their doctor about possible complications.

Two more possible side effects of Lipitor are severe muscle pain and muscle disease ( As with many new medications, a long-term study of Lipitor's effects on humans will not be totally possible until it's been in circulation for some time. Until then, the best recourse for the first-time user is probably to discuss the option over with your family physician, and to be aware that there has been a fair amount of discussion concerning more serious Lipitor-related side effects.

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