Hello Dr. Rona: My physician has become increasingly concerned about my cholesterol levels being too high. I was deemed to have high cholesterol starting in my early 20’s. Recently, he ordered ultrasound tests of both my neck and legs to find out if there is any current blockage to blood flow. The results show mild plaque deposits in the arteries. Now both my cardiologist and my GP are pressing me to start taking statins for the rest of my life. (I am a healthy 63-year-old male).
What would you recommend as a viable alternative to taking statins? I have read so much literature for and against statins, and I have also read literature about cholesterol being either the greatest enemy or a good friend! It is hard to sort it all out. Certainly fear and misinformation are big factors in deciding to go the statin route. The results of my last blood test are as follows:
Cholesterol: 8.06; Triglycerides: 1.90; HDL: 1.21; LDL: 5.99; Non-HDL Cholesterol: 6.85; Ratio of HDL to Total: 6.7. Thank you for any insights you can give.
Daniel Pikelin, Toronto, Ontario
Hello Daniel: You were not born with a statin deficiency that could only be corrected by a prescription from the local drug store. Furthermore, lowering cholesterol to unnaturally low levels would have zero effect on eliminating calcium plaque from your arteries. The basic cause of your health condition is chronic inflammation and not high cholesterol levels. Despite these proven facts, the vast majority of the general public continues to fear cholesterol as some sort of evil harbinger of death.
You may be interested to know that 40 years ago your lab results would have been considered to be within the acceptable or normal ranges, and no doctor would have prescribed any medications to you based on those test results. But over the last three decades, the “normal” ranges for cholesterol have dropped to ever lower levels, implying that just about every adult over age 50 who visits a doctor is now in need of cholesterol-lowering medication.
I am not a believer in conspiracy theories but some drug company whistle blowers have blatantly stated that the lowering of the “normal” reference range for cholesterol was done simply to sell more statin drugs. This is because these increasingly lower “normal” cholesterol ranges were set by “experts” directly connected to the drug industry.(1)
A few years ago I published an article in Vitality magazine about challenging the statin dogma.(2) To date, I have not received a single letter from any of the usually negative medical authorities arguing any of my facts. This is because the ‘sound’ evidence for the use of statins is actually quite flawed.
I see on the internet that I am not alone in my opinion about statins. For example, Dr. David Brownstein makes similar arguments for avoiding statins in one of his own Vitality magazine articles. (3) He makes the point that the use of statin drugs as either a prevention or treatment of atherosclerosis is not evidence-based. I completely agree. A class of drugs that has only a 1% success rate in preventing heart attacks is hardly evidence-based. Given the fact that placebo (sugar pills) work up to 72% of the time in achieving a therapeutic goal, a success rate of 1% is a sad joke. So, in effect, statins are very poor and expensive placebos that create what critics of vitamin supplementation often call “expensive urine”.
All the so-called evidence promoting statin drug use comes from clearly conflict of interest studies and drug company propaganda. Too see what I mean, read the article entitled:“Statins: Flawed Studies, False Advertising, Lack of Transparency”; Science in Society.(4)
A very comprehensive article also outlining the importance of avoiding statin drug prescriptions, entitled “Cholesterol Myths You Need to Stop Believing,” can be found on Dr. Joseph Mercola’s website.(5)
Yet another well researched paper by Dr. Donald Miller exposes the fallacies about statin drugs (see: http://www.jpands.org/vol20no2/miller.pdf). You may want to share some or all of these papers with your family doctor and cardiologist.
Since cholesterol is needed by the human body to make its own hormones like testosterone and vitamin D, why suppress its existence in the body with a drug that can actually cause heart disease, diabetes, dementia and vitamin D deficiency? Low testosterone levels, by the way, are associated with a greater risk of heart disease. An underactive thyroid, another risk for heart disease, can also cause your cholesterol levels to rise, so using a statin drug in such a situation can only lead to more health problems. Furthermore, cholesterol has never been proven to cause heart disease.
Cholesterol is an antioxidant and high levels are there to protect you from toxins, low hormone levels, and inflammation. An elevated level of cholesterol is a warning sign of something else going on in the body that needs your attention. What you should be focusing on is a low glycemic, anti-inflammatory diet, more aerobic exercise, and some basic antioxidant nutritional supplements. (For more details on recommended antioxidants, visit: http://vitalitymagazine.com/article/challenging-the-statin-drug-dogma/)
As the level of inflammation is reduced in your body, cholesterol levels will naturally fall. It is a well established fact, for example, that regular exercise will reduce inflammation and hence lower cholesterol levels.
By the way, a high triglyceride level is a sure giveaway that either your alcohol intake or carbohydrate intake is too high. Change your diet. Change your lifestyle. And don’t enrich the coffers of the drug cartel. If you need help with a sound health program, see a naturopath or a medical doctor that has lost his prescription pad in favour of a more holistic approach.
(1) On artificially lowering “normal” cholesterol levels, see: http://tinyurl.com/6rxkur
(2) “Challenging the Statin Drug Dogma”, archived on Vitality’s website: http://tinyurl.com/z4g3chh
(3) “Statin Drugs: One of the Greatest Failures of Modern Medicine”, archived on Vitality’s website: http://tinyurl.com/hym6xqd
(4) “Statins: Flawed Studies, False Advertising, Lack of Transparency”, Science in Society: http://tinyurl.com/jv4jzn5
(5) Dr. Mercola web article: http://tinyurl.com/h86hq8h
• “Total Cholesterol Lies: What You Are Not Being Told”: http://tinyurl.com/j9top49
• “Why Low Cholesterol is Not Good For You”, by Dr. Joseph Mercola: http://tinyurl.com/5lxou2
• “Exposing the Cholesterol Myth”: http://tinyurl.com/gua6t7l
• Low Cholesterol Levels are Worse Than High? http://tinyurl.com/jy268zy
• “It’s Not Dementia. It’s Your Heart Medication”; Scientific American: http://tinyurl.com/zjh2gsj
• Cardiovascular Benefits of Testosterone; Veterans Affairs Research: http://tinyurl.com/jxeutj8
• “How Statins Degenerate Your Brain Health”, by Dr. Joseph Mercola: http://tinyurl.com/h6kbz29
• Exercise Lowers Cholesterol Levels; Everyday Health: http://tinyurl.com/zn5s274
• “Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs May Be Linked to Diabetes”; Consumer Reports: http://tinyurl.com/jsfbmae