Readers here may or may not know that I have heart issues (two mild heart attacks in the last five years). So I’m constantly researching new treatments, and investigating my present treatments. Now, I’ve been on statins for quite some time now, and suffered some of the side effects, in the belief that they were helping me. I’m beginning to question that.
No doubt, you’ve heard about the recent Business Week cover story, “Do Cholesterol Drugs Do Any Good?”, which blew the lid off the theory that “statins” — drugs like Lipitor, Crestor, Mevacor, Zocor, and Pravachol — can cut the odds that you will die of a heart attack by slowing the production of cholesterol in your body and increasing the liver’s ability to remove L.D.L., or “bad cholesterol”, from your blood.
It’s true that these drugs can help some people — but not nearly as many as we have been told. Moreover, and this is the kicker, we don’t have any clear evidence that they work by lowering cholesterol.
I have never had high cholesterol. This might be due to the fact that my gall bladder was removed in 1969 because of gallstones, but I’m not a medical expert, so I have no way of knowing. The last A1C test showed my LDL levels were well below the danger range (however, HDL, the “good cholesterol”, was also low). Yet, my doctor insists that I stay on Vytorin, among other things, which has been his modus operandi for quite some time (privately, I call him Doctor Feelgood for his propensity to push pills).
In other words, researchers are questioning the bedrock assumption that high levels of “bad cholesterol” cause heart disease. “Higher LDL levels do help set the stage for heart disease by contributing to the building of plaque in artieries. But something else has to happen before people get heart disease,” Dr. Ronald M. Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at the Oakland Research Institute, told Business Week. “When you look at patients with heart disease, their cholesterol levels are not that [much] higher than those without heart disease,” he added. “Compare countries, for example. Spaniards have LDL levels similar to Americans, but less than half the rate of heart disease. The Swiss have even higher cholesterol levels (must be all that chocolate – ed.), but their rates of heart disease are also lower. Australian aborigines have low cholesterol but high rates of heart disease.”
In recent years, researchers have begun to suspect that statins help patients, not by lowering cholesterol leels, but by reducing inflammation. If this theory is right, “this seems likely to shunt cholesterol reduction into a small corner of the overall picture of heart disease,” the Guardian reported four years ago.
An interesting quote from the Guardian article: Finally, statins, the cholesterol-reducing drugs we are all being urged to take, are of little use to women.
But back to the Healthblog article:
And if the key to statins is that they reduce inflammation, it’s worth keeping in mind that this is what other effective heart treatments like aspirin and the omega three fatty acids found in fish oils, garlic and Vitamin E do—at a much lower cost and with far fewer side effects.
Now, I’m not advocating anybody quit taking the medications they might be one without checking with their doctors. But I’m seriously thinking about changing a few things myself. I welcome any thoughts and opinions, especially from our resident physician, Dminor, who might know whether I’m talking through my hat.