Atorvastatin, available as the brand Lipitor, is a prescription medication used to lower high cholesterol levels and reduce the risk and severity of cardiovascular disease. Lipitor is classified as a statin drug; it works by inhibiting an enzyme involved in cholesterol production in the body. Research indicates that magnesium has statin effects as well. Consult your doctor before taking magnesium supplements if you also use Lipitor.
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Lipitor and other statins are medically known as HMG CoA reductase inhibitors. Their action lowers blood levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol -- the bad cholesterol -- as well as other fatty substances called triglycerides. Statins also increase levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the good cholesterol. Some patients experience unpleasant side effects when taking Lipitor, including muscle pain and weakness, that motivates them to look for other solutions.
An article published in the October 2004 issue of the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" reports that statins and magnesium both inhibit the same enzyme. Patients with high LDL cholesterol who take statins generally experience a reduction in cholesterol levels of 35 to 65 percent. Statins also decrease the incidence of heart attacks and angina and death from cardiac disorders and strokes. This is not only due to the cholesterol-lowing activity, but to additional effects such as reducing inflammation, promoting artery plaque regression and improving function of the endothelium, or the layer of cells lining the interior of blood vessels. The authors say that magnesium has similar effects but do not state that magnesium is as effective as statins.
Drugs.com lists one magnesium formulation as interacting with Lipitor. Magnesium hydroxide, an ingredient in Maalox TC, appears to reduce plasma concentrations of Lipitor, although it has not been shown to weaken the cholesterol-lowering effect. It is unclear why magnesium hydroxide affects Lipitor this way.
If you'd like to add magnesium supplements to your health regimen, don't stop taking Lipitor or change your dosage without your doctor's supervision. Easily absorbed forms of magnesium include magnesium citrate, magnesium gluconate and magnesium lactate, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Timed-release supplements may have better absorption. Recommended dosages based on dietary reference intakes range from 310 to 420 milligrams per day for men and women age 19 and over.