Statins are one of the most prescribed medications. Statins side effects make them one of the most controversial drugs That controversy has grown with new suggestions from the American Heart Association.
Previous guidelines for statin use centered around cholesterol levels. Now certain risk factors will set the bar for determining whether or not these drugs could be needed. It has been estimated that nearly 13 million more people could be included in that group considered as candidates for statin therapy.
A dream come true for the pharmaceutical industry.
Muscle pain: This can range from discomfort to severe pain. There have been cases where high statin dosage has caused acute kidney disease and death
Liver damage: As with muscle pain, the level can be anywhere between mild and dangerous. I wrote more about this in the first page about statins.
Diabetes: This is a big concern. Some statin use has increased blood sugar levels.
Cancer: Some studies have suggested that certain cancer risks go up with statin use. There is still more evidence needed in this area.
Confusion and memory loss: This one is still being studied. Results vary, so be honest with your doctor.
For years doctors tried to lead their patients to LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) counts under 100. Those people who already had heart disease were advised to get that bad cholesterol down under 70. Regular readers at books-empower.com know that my most recent physical came back clean with the exception of slightly raised LDL numbers.
My doctor suggested that 100 number, but I've set the goal for 70 myself.
The new criteria abandons sole reliance on cholesterol counts and instead adds in age, blood pressure, diabetes and stroke, just to name a few factors.
Here are the four main criteria:
* Presence of heart disease
* Presence of diabetes
* LDL count above 190
* 10 year heart attack risk greater than 7.5%
Remember that second one as we get further down the page. We'll deal with the fourth one right away. That risk calculator has been met with withering criticism. It appears to be slanted so that nearly half the older adult population could be listed in this higher risk category. Which would place them in that group to "qualify" for statin prescriptions. And would open them up to statins side effects.
Dr. Steven Nissan is a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic. He tested this risk calculator on some of his own patients. "Something is terribly wrong," was his comment to the New York Times. He added that this new structure would guarantee statin treatment for every "average healthy Joe." And much more exposure to statins side effects.
Dr. Nissan found that even men with no hint of high blood pressure, non-smokers and LDL counts just as they should be were being marked as high risk. Those who represented the picture of good health would be "qualified" as statin candidates. I keep adding quotes to that word qualified for a good reason. We'll touch on that a bit later.
Dr. Stephen Sinatra wrote a very long piece breaking down the aspects of this controversial set of guidelines. Here is a short part of that critique:
On heart disease:
Dr. Sinatra states that in women, the statins side effects would indicate this as a poor marker. He says the risk factors for diabetes and breast cancer from taking statins outweigh any possible gain from this prescription cash machine. He adds,"the only women who should be on statins are those with advanced coronary artery disease who continue to deteriorate despite lifestyle interventions. I believe that less than one percent of women with coronary artery disease fall into this category."
As we already listed above, diabetes can be one of statins side effects. So in what world is giving a drug that produces diabetes to a person already suffering from diabetes sound medical practice?
Dr. Sinatra said in a New York Times article,"Remember that there’s no data to suggest statin medications will improve longevity even in people with cardiovascular disease,so I would never recommend using statins as primary prevention. Every patient is different, and prescribing a drug with an enormous side-effect profile based on an algorithm concept is, frankly, poor medicine. Doctors need to treat individuals with smart medicine,not guidelines, numbers and unproven myths and dogma."
Just below is a short video from Dr. Sinatra. He talks about the importance of treating the individual rather than following category statistics.
In his newest book, "The Simple Heart Cure", Dr. Chauncey Crandall devotes an entire chapter to this subject of cholesterol lowering methods. As we mentioned in the page that gave an overview of statins, he does prescribe them in certain cases. They do provide some benefits, but his goal is really to get his patients off drugs and on to a better lifestyle.
In fact, unless the patient is in immediate danger, Dr. Crandall usually tries to give his patients a couple months to make those necessary lifestyle changes so statins side effects are never a concern.
Regarding these new suggested treatment guidelines, Dr. Crandall states,"We’ve made great progress over the past 25 years." He adds, "I don’t think we should abandon a successful strategy until we have time to evaluate how the new one is working."
Dr. Crandall has also reported that inflammation presents a bigger danger to our cardiovascular system than high cholesterol. As we've shown in the various pages within books-empower.com, these conditions are inter-related.
I understand that inflammation is a bigger threat than my higher LDL counts. I also know that the same regimen that will lower those LDL counts will greatly reduce my risk of inflammation. It will keep my blood pressure in the correct range. It will help to protect me from kidney disease and diabetes. LDL is actually a warning sign of inflammation.
And it will keep me from experiencing statins side effects. That regimen is better diet, better exercise and better rest. And yes, better relaxation. Laughter is a great medicine and has no dangerous side effects.
Lowering the guidelines that lead to statin prescription is the same as lowering the expectation of human resilience and determination. It is throwing in the towel as far as belief in our ability to change bad habits. I don't follow that thought process.
I think we just need better education. Much like teaching financial literacy in schools. We need to provide the information in a way that will lead people to help themselves.
My time spent researching the pages contained within books-empower.com has given me so much new information. I hope these pages do the same for all of you reading the words. I have much more belief in our ability to help our bodies heal without so many prescription drugs.
I have a much better understanding of nutrition and food quality. I wish I had started this project ten years ago. But where we are is where we are, so we begin at that point and move forward.
We can teach a new generation how to avoid statins. We can show them that they do not need a pill to correct bad habits. We can educate them in the proper balance of quality food choices, daily exercise and time for fun. We can teach them by showing them how we follow that image of the four chambers of heart health found in the right margin of every page on this website.
They never have to experience statins side effects. Neither do you.