The effects of statins will be felt by many more people if they follow the suggestions of two fairly recent studies. One is the first new set of guidelines to come out in several years. It would suggest that fully one third of all American adults should consider taking these cholesterol lowering drugs.
The goal of course is to lower the rate of death and illness from heart disease. Lowering stroke dangers are also part of this new protocol. The suggestions seem to point toward doctors prescribing statins such as Lipitor and Zocor as the method of choice to lower high cholesterol. The report suggests that generic statins could be obtained for a reasonably low cost.
We posted a page about statins a while back. This page will serve as a continuation following the new reports. Here are the groups that will be focused upon regarding the effects of statins.
People with LDL cholesterol counts higher than 190
People who already have heart disease
The folks between age 40 and 75 who have type 2 diabetes
Those in that 40-75 group who score at least 7.5% risk of heart attack or stroke within the next ten years based on certain tests from these new markers.
This would lead to about 44% of men and 22% of women going on statins. The current level is 15% of adults.
The other report raises even more concerns. It suggests that younger people, even children may need to begin a statin regimen.
They cite rising obesity levels as the main reason along with the possibility of being susceptible to heart disease later in life.
This is a controversial topic. That doesn't mean we should shy away from it. To do so would reduce the critical thinking needed by all of us as we discern the balance between advantages gained vs. dangerous side effects of statins.
The effects of statins go both ways. Without question statins do work in some cases. They might even help to lower inflammation levels which is a bigger cause of heart disease than high cholesterol.
But there are side effects of statins that are not good. Among those would be...
Elevated liver enzymes. The liver produces enzymes that digest food and even medication. Statins may cause the production level to go up. The jury is still out on whether liver damage could be caused by this cholesterol lowering drug.
An increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Blood glucose levels have been recorded as rising among some statin patients. A rise in blood sugar levels could be a sign of diabetes. This is an interesting one. The new guidelines specifically target adults with type 2 diabetes to go on statins. Clearly some caution is warranted.
Memory loss or confusion. Feeling dizzy or forgetful has been reported with statin use. Dropping the drug seems to solve the problem right away, but does lead to some speculation that statins may have a link to Alzheimer's disease.
Muscle or joint pain. This could be just annoying or could be so severe that changing the regimen or dropping the drug is required.
Here is my personal view of the biggest challenge with these new precepts. They have eliminated the idea of lowering LDL counts below 100. They do take in a wider range of symptoms which could be good. But by eliminating a set goal, I feel too many people will give up the target of changing to a better lifestyle and just rely on yet another pill.
In researching this page, I found a wide variety of doctor's opinions. The biggest concerns centered around two points. That very idea of losing the target and therefore the goal of lowering cholesterol was the big one. And the wide ranging views within the report was another issue. Many doctors expressed a need to move slowly on some of the ideas.
Please understand that independent research is pointing to inflammation as a much bigger danger than low density cholesterol. There are plenty of people with low LDL counts who have experienced heart attacks. Conversely there are also large numbers of people with elevated low density cholesterol levels who never face a cardiac event.
Here is a link with an interesting viewpoint and a great deal of information. There is always value in considering varied opinions.
Dr. Chauncey Crandall suggests we should take a wait and see approach. He says, " I don't think we should abandon a successful strategy until we have time to evaluate how the new one is working." Dr. Crandall's book, "The Simple Heart Cure. The 90 Day Program To Stop And Reverse Heart Disease" was a number one best seller on Amazon. Please click the link if you'd like to purchase a copy of his book.
His biggest concern is that too many people will be added to the list of patients dealing with the effects of statins for the rest of their lives when in many cases, better lifestyle choices will do the job of lowering heart disease and stroke risk. His goal is to get people off medication, not create career medication subscribers.
He does offer some very simple ways to lower cholesterol without the need for drugs. Therefore you will have none of the bad effects of statins and won't have to take a daily dose of prescription drugs.
Change your diet. We've written this one over and over. Just because it works. More plant based foods including fruits, vegetables, and beans. It is so simple.
Check out our pages about the Mediterranean diet, located in the left margin of every page.
Get more sleep. I wrote an entire page about the dangers of lack of sleep. Lack of sleep can raise LDL (bad cholesterol) counts, contribute to high blood pressure and in many cases add to the overeating pressure. Folks who cannot sleep, often turn on the television and open the refrigerator.
Be sure you are getting enough Vitamin D. As we get older, our bodies don't synthesize Vitamin D from the sun as well. Check with your doctor about adding a Vitamin D supplement. Also ask about....
A plant sterol supplement. Plant sterols, (also known as stanols), are known to block the absorption of human cholesterol into the small intestine. They are a sort of plant version of cholesterol.
Monitor your blood sugar levels. This requires making that trip to your doctor. High blood sugar raises the bad cholesterol level but even worse raises triglyceride counts. This type of blood fat is extremely dangerous to our blood vessels.
Exercise one hour per day. You already know this. Get off the couch and on to the walking path.
These new sets of guidelines will certainly present the effects of statins to many more people. Both the good and bad results. But as I read through the new testing plan, they do come back to the suggestions from Dr. Crandall.
To reduce the number of heart disease victims we need to emphasize a more disciplined approach to lifestyle. That means better diet, better exercise, and better rest. This natural recipe will solve most of the cardiovascular system related conditions. Without pills. Without any effects of statins.
Prescribing statins at an earlier age based on presumptions and probabilities while ignoring the root causes of inflammation, arteriosclerosis and yes, even elevated low density cholesterol levels merely places a band-aid on the actual problem.
It also opens up the door to many more health challenges by sentencing younger and younger people to a lifetime of prescription drugs. This is great news for big pharmacy, but our goal should be to cure disease, not to merely contain it with expensive, perhaps unnecessary drugs.
The body can do wonders in healing itself if we just help a little bit.