Cholesterol Statins Part 1 Part 2
Statin medicine to lower cholesterol was approved in the United States in 1987
Over the last few decades, as a cardiologist, I have been prescribing statins for my patients when indicated and initially these medications seemed safe and reasonably well tolerated, but the more I have learned on statins, both from my experience, my patients and reading of medical literature, the more I have become concerned.
As more and more people take statins, there become more and more reports of serious, and sometimes fatal, side effects.
Now that their use has accelerated, I feel compelled to share some of my research into this powerful class of medications. I hope to encourage you to speak freely with me, and can make an informed consent. Some people can take statins and not develop side effects. It is usually dose-related or controlled by a gene that I can check in the patient’s blood. But how necessary are the statins in the first place?
Do they really help prevent strokes and heart attacks? These days, doctors are advised to knock down the cholesterol to very low levels with very high doses of statins. I do not agree with this philosophy. I think cholesterol, far from being the villain, is a vital part of every cell in our body. They are produced primarily in the liver and cholesterol is absolutely crucial for normal functioning of muscles, nerves, the brain, and is also the building blocks of our hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. How will our muscles, brain cells, and nerves react if they are chronically starved? How will they act normally?
These and other questions about statins need unbiased, scientific, valid answers. In the research that I have done, I have poured over the studies that were used to justify treating people with statins. I spoke to my own patients and I myself had my own side effects, and have decided to stop them. I initially took Medcor in the late 80′s, and I have even tried Lipitor and Crestor. After doing my research, I will not take a statin.
Statins are approved to treat high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the bad cholesterol. There are several scientific studies found that statins lowered the risk of cardiac events in people with established atherosclerosis. However, the benefit was modest and was even less in women than men. Furthermore, despite statin therapy, people with atherosclerosis still had a high residual risk. That is, they had an increased risk of heart attack and stroke even when their LDL cholesterol was brought to very low levels.
There were also studies which showed benefits of statin therapy in people without cardiovascular disease, but with elevated levels. These benefits were found only in men, and were not in women. The studies are confusing.
Do you take any of these 11 dangerous cholesterol drugs?
Zovastatin, Medcor (Lovastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), Vytorin, Lipitor (atorvastatin), Crestor (rosuvastatin), Advicor (Lovastatin with Niacin). Tens of millions of Americans are taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, and some experts claim that many more should be taken them. I disagree. Statins are HMG-COA reductase inhibitors. They act by blocking the enzyme in your liver that is responsible for making cholesterol. The fact that statin drugs cause side effects is well established. There are now 900 studies proving adverse effects, which run the gamut from muscle problems to increased cancer risk.
For starters, let’s look at muscle problems: Polyneuropathy which is nerve damage in the hands and feet; rhabdomyolysis, a series degenerative muscle disease which affects the kidneys; acidosis, immune depression, pancreas and liver dysfunction, memory loss, cataracts, sexual dysfunction, and anemia. The muscle problems are the best known of the statin adverse side effects, but cognitive problems and memory loss are also widely reported.
There is also an increased incidence of elevated blood sugar with diabetes, and tendon problems. There is also evidence that it can increase your risk of Lou Gehrig’s disease and even cancer.
Statins have been shown to increase your risk of diabetes through a few different mechanisms.
The most important one is the increased insulin resistance that can be extremely harmful to your health. Increased insulin contributes to chronic inflammation, which is the hallmark of most disease. In fact, insulin resistance can lead to heart disease, which ironically is the primary reason for taking cholesterol-lowering drugs in the first place.
It can also promote belly fat, high blood pressure, heart attacks, chronic fatigue, thyroid disruption, and diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.
Secondly, statins increase your diabetes risk by actually raising your blood sugar. When you eat a meal that contains starches and sugars, some of the excess sugar goes to your liver, which then stores it away as cholesterol and triglycerides.
Statins work by preventing your liver from making cholesterol. As a result, your liver returns the sugar to your bloodstream, which raises your blood sugar. It is important to note that this is drug-induced diabetes, or Type 2 diabetes. This is important to note, that drug-induced diabetes and genuine Type 2 diabetes are not necessarily identical.
If you are on a statin and find your blood sugar glucose is elevated, it is possible that you just have the side effect of your medication. Unfortunately, most doctors will at that point mistakenly diagnose you with Type 2 diabetes and prescribe another drug, when all you need to do is simply discontinue your statin in order for your blood sugar levels to go back to normal. So if friends or a loved one you know are on a statin–and one of four Americans over 45 are–and they are told they have diabetes, please do them a favor and tell them about this information.
Major Statin Drug Studies Found to be Flawed:
A study known as the Jupiter Trial initially suggests cholesterol-lowering statin drugs might prevent heart-related deaths in many more people than just those with high cholesterol, but two years after its publication in 2008, researchers came out saying the Jupiter results were flawed and they do not support the benefits initially reported. Not only is there no striking decreased in coronary heart disease, but a more recent report has called into question drug companies’ involvement in the trial.
If you are taking a statin, you make take Q10. Statins deplete the body of Q10, which can have devastating results. Unfortunately, this describes the majority of people in the United States. Q10 is a co-enzyme that is essential for the creation of ATP molecules–that is, energy which you need. Organs such as your heart have higher energy requirements, and therefore require more Q10 to function properly.
Produced mainly in the liver, it plays a role in maintaining blood sugar. Physicians rarely inform patients of the risk and occasionally advise them to take a Q10 supplement. Co-enzyme Q10 is also very important in the process of neutralizing free radicals, so when Q10 is depleted, you enter a vicious cycle of increased free radicals, loss of energy, and damaged mitochondrial DNA. I prescribe 200 mg of Q10 and it is in my women’s and men’s vitamins.
Statin hormones also interfere with other biologic functions, including early step in the mezalonate pathway, which is central for steroid management in your body. Products of this pathway that are negatively effected by statins include all your sex hormones, cortisone, and the dolichols, which are involved in keeping membranes inside your cells healthy. Also, all sterols, including cholesterol and vitamin D, are effected. Statins should never be used by a pregnant woman. One in four Americans over the age of 45 are now taking these drugs. Statins are classified as causing serious birth defects, and should never be used.
Parents Beware! Outrageous Push to Put Kids on Statins:
In a bold attempt to increase profits before the patent runs out, Pfizer introduced in November 2011, after its patent expired, a kid-friendly version of Lipitor. Seeking to boost sales of the drug, children have become the new target market, so rather than improving school lunches, which should cost about a dollar a day, they would rather invest 10 times that for testing drugs which in no way, shape, or form address the root problem, which is an unhealthy diet.
Optimizing your Cholesterol Levels Naturally:
There are very few reasons to take a statin. The fact that 75% of the cholesterol is produced by your liver, which is influenced by your insulin levels. Therefore, if you optimize your insulin level, you will automatically optimize your cholesterol. It follows that my primary recommendation for safeguarding regulating your cholesterol, has to do with modifying your diet and lifestyle. Therefore, optimize your vitamin D levels, reduce or eliminate grains and sugar from your diet, and consume a Mediterranean diet and increase your raw food.
Make sure you are getting plenty of high-quality omega-3 fats, as well as olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, as well as nuts and seeds. Exercise daily. Of course avoid smoking and drinking alcohol, and be sure to get plenty of rest. Sleep is restorative. Unlike statin drugs which lower your cholesterol at the expense of your health, these lifestyle strategies represent a holistic approach that will benefit your overall health, which includes a healthy cardiovascular system.
Remember that Baycol statin recall and safety issue. In 2001, Bayer, the makers of Baycol, a popular cholesterol drug which was used by 700,000 Americans, was pulled off the market after 31 people died from severe muscle breakdown, a well-known side effect of the cholesterol-lowering drugs.
New Bombshells: Disastrous Side Effects from Statins:
A paper published by the American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs, sites nearly 900 studies on the adverse effects of statins.
How big a risk are statins for memory problems and diabetes? A big risk. Doctors are now aware of the increasing side effects of statins.
Did you know why these drugs failed miserably at heart attack prevention? Originally, statin drugs were prescribed for secondary prevention, meaning the prevention of a second heart attack or stroke, but many doctors are using it for primary prevention.
The medical literature is confusing, but considering the increasing side effects of statins, I think patients should be made aware that there are other risk factors and things they can do. Of primary importance is diet and lifestyle. By normalizing our insulin levels and eliminating sugar, particularly fructose and grains, your insulin will come down and your cholesterol will improve.
New Study Shows Using Statins Actually Worsens Heart Failure:
A study published in Clinical Cardiology was recently found that heart muscle was significantly better in control group than in the statin group. The problem mechanism was probably in Q10 depletion, which increases heart failure.
There is also increased risk of strokes and serious side effects. The American Journal of Cardiovascular Drug, adverse side effects are dose-dependent and depend on many factors such as drug interactions that increase statin potency, metabolic syndrome, thyroid disease, and other genetic variations.
Red yeast rice is a potent over-the-counter therapy for reduction of LDL cholesterol.
It is a fermentation product which results from growing the yeast monascus on rice. Red yeast rice contains mona colins constituents that are HMG-COA reductase inhibitors, or statins. The one present in greatest concentration is mono colin K, also known as Levastatin. The mono colin content, and therefore the cholesterol-lowering properties, vary differently between brands of red yeast. I use an organic brand. The product that I use does not have citrinin, which is found in some brands. This is toxic to the kidney and should be avoided at all costs.
If red yeast is a form of statin, why recommend it instead of prescriptions? There are two reasons: 1) Patients who are philosophically opposed to taking a prescription medication, and 2) Patients who experience adverse reaction to prescription statins.
There is a growing body of literature to support the use of red yeast.
Reductions in LDL cholesterol with red yeast are typically in the range of 20%-30%. A 12-week study of red yeast resulted in a decrease in LDL cholesterol of 23%, and a decrease in triglycerides of 15%. No myalgias were reported. Another study compared red yeast simvastatin in diet and significant reductions of LDL were seen. Most importantly, there is outcome data with red yeast showing improvement of both cardiovascular endpoints as well as total mortality. A study of 4,870 individuals with myocardial infarctions randomized to placebo or red yeast rice, 1,200 mg a day for 4.5 years, demonstrated a 45% decrease in primary endpoint for major coronary events in the group receiving the red rice.
Moreover, a reduction in total mortality of 33% in the treatment group was observed. The red yeast used in the study contained a total of 10-12 mg of Levastatin and the LDL reduction was 18%. It is interesting to speculate that other constituents of red yeast rice may contribute to the outcome benefits which appeared disproportionate to the lipid-lowering effect.
From the above data, it seems that the risk factors of statins are growing.
Memory loss is of great concern
If the Mediterranean diet, exercise, liver detoxification, omega-3′s, niacin, and other natural therapies fail, I may occasionally use a statin in an extremely small dose and lengthen the dosing interval to minimize side effects.
In addition to this, I add plant sterols for additional LDL lowering, as well as evaluation for vitamin D, hypothyroidism, and genetic testing to evaluate the metabolism of the statins. Using the lowest dose for control is necessary. The other factors which cause coronary heart disease are always evaluated. I think every patient should be educated as to the side effects of statins and complementary therapies which may better reverse or prevent his heart disease.
Best in health,
Dean Silver, M.D.