John Paradiso, 57, went on a statin to lower his cholesterol after his doctor told him he had heart disease.
"Yeah, I was definitely scared, I was definitely scared," he said.
In addition to taking medication, Paradiso stopped eating red meat and started a heart healthy diet. But a new study finds that's not the case for many people on statins.
"What we have seen is that over time people who have been on statins are eating more calories and eating more fat," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital.
The study in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at nearly 30,000 people over 10 years and found people using cholesterol lowering drugs ate more and gained weight.
"If you perceive your cholesterol is normal, you don't have as much as an incentive to watch what you eat," said Dr. Martin Shapiro of the UCLA School of Medicine.
Millions of Americans are on statins, and under recent guidelines, one-third of U.S. adults could be advised to take them.
Study author Shapiro says while the drugs work well, there's more to preventing heart disease than just lowering cholesterol.
"Taking medications should not be a substitute for trying to live one's life healthier," he said.
Paradiso is making healthier choices. He exercises regularly and eats plenty of fish, fruits and vegetables.
Researchers saw an increase in total fat and saturated fats in statin users.
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