As part of a routine history in my office, we ask every patient what medications they are currently taking. No, I am not a medical doctor that prescribes or changes medications, but I am a physician that cares about the entire person, and I am concerned about creating an overall environment of well-being in each of my patients. One of the most common responses is that my patient has been put on a cholesterol lowering, or “statin” drug. Since cholesterol management has become such a frequent concern in modern medicine, it’s often not even questioned by the patient when their doctor says, “Here, take these.” Unfortunately, most of the time, much like a bad war, there is no exit strategy. In light of this, I figured I’d do my best to set the record straight with real, unbiased research on cholesterol, its relationship to heart disease and the effectiveness and side effects of statin drugs.
First off, let’s get to the main point. You NEED cholesterol. Your body uses it as a base to make hormones, cell membranes, bile acids and Vitamin D. You also need it for nerve function and memory. This is very well established.
Next, understand that your cholesterol values are a VERY poor indicator of cardiovascular risk factors, and the doctors throwing you on a “preventative” statin, are doing nothing more than exposing you to a multitude of negative side effects if they are simply about a number in a blood test. Overall cardiovascular risk is MUCH more complicated and should be evaluated using more of an actual thinking approach. This approach must address: diet (number 1 on this list), weight, exercise level, smoking history, family history, current drug (prescription/non-prescription) use, stress management, inflammation levels and personal cardiovascular event history.
Now, I could go on and on about the negative side effects of the statins, but the one that affects my patient the most is muscle damage called myopathy. This is most commonly seen with higher dosages, but clinically, I’ve seen reported side effects even at the lowest doses. The FDA gave this warning in 2011: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recommending limiting the use of the highest approved dose of the cholesterol-lowering medication, simvastatin (80 mg) because of increased risk of muscle damage. Simvastatin 80 mg should be used only in patients who have been taking this dose for 12 months or more without evidence of muscle injury (myopathy). Simvastatin 80 mg should not be started in new patients, including patients already taking lower doses of the drug. In addition to these new limitations, FDA is requiring changes to the simvastatin label to add new contraindications (should not be used with certain medications) and dose limitations for using simvastatin with certain medicines.”
Lastly, the other point I want to make is that research and guidelines that have recommended lowering cholesterol is about as biased as any out there. In 2004, the US government’s National Cholesterol Education Program panel recommended extra low levels of total cholesterol: Below 100! This is WAY too low, and this will cause more harm then good. Guess what! You need drugs to get this low. And guess what else! 8 out of 9 members of the panel had financial ties to companies that make cholesterol drugs! Despite groups since 2004 calling foul on this recommendation, the American Heart Association has not abandoned this outdated “guideline”, and unfortunately, most doctors are sheep. They’re led around by the associations and the drug reps visiting their office. Who has time to read when you have to see 40 Medicare patients and 20 Medicaid patients a day to pay your overhead as a family practice doctor?
I could go on, but I’m not the guy to reinvent the wheel. This is all stuff I’ve been spouting out of my pie-hole for 11 years, and despite my enjoyment of doing this blog, there’s better writers than me. I would highly recommend checking out the article by Dr. Joseph Mercola here. He discusses the points that I’ve touched on and more. Don’t like my “chiropractic” opinion? He’s a DO, and he practiced as a family practice physician for years using both prescriptive and non-prescriptive approaches. Smart dude, so read up and rethink that prescription given to you to “prevent” your cholesterol from being too high.
Anyway, that’s my advice, take it or leave it. I promise I’m looking out for you. I don’t make money from you NOT taking drugs, and it’s ultimately up to you. I will say that I’ve only seen positive results when folks have dropped off of their statins, and not one person that I’ve known has dropped dead of heart or cardiovascular disease shortly after stopping them. Clean up the diet, get your weight and lifestyle habits in check, and live a happy and healthy life so your family can enjoy you for quite a while longer!
– Dr. Craig
BTW, pop on Twitter and follow me at twitter.com/craigbanks66 and be sure to check out my topical pain relief product, Phoenix KinetiCream at PhoenixBioperformance.com. Feel free to use code “SOCIAL20” to take 20% off your order!