Researcher Studying the Effect of Statins on Muscles and Aerobic Exercise

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Bob Hallinan

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In the United States, where cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death, more than 40 million people--slightly more than half of American adults--take a statin to lower their cholesterol and ward off heart attack and stroke.   

Now John Thyfault, professor in Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the KU School of Medicine and a research scientist at the Kansas City VA Medical Center, is studying some surprising ways that statins can adversely impact a person’s health over time. He is conducting a clinical trial to determine at what dosages atorvastatin, which is the most commonly prescribed statin in the United States, can impede muscle function and, ironically, lessen the benefits of the simplest, most effective way to improve cardiovascular health: aerobic exercise.

In this video, Dr. Thyfault explains how statins can affect skeletal muscles on a cellular level and lessen the body’s adaptation to aerobic exercise. The goal of his study is not to discredit statins, but to find how different dosages and durations (how long a person takes the drug) alter those effects. Also in the video, Kamal Gupta, M.D., a cardiologist at the University of Kansas Health System and a professor of medicine and cardiology at University of Kansas School of Medicine, talks about the benefits of statins and how the results of Dr. Thyfault’s research could potentially be used, for some patients, to adjust the dosage so that they still get the benefit of the statin without compromising the positive cardiorespiratory benefits of aerobic exercise.