High cholesterol ‘does not cause heart disease’: Statins are a ‘Waste of Time’

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A little over two years ago, I got a nasty parasite while adventuring in the tropics that landed me in the hospital so fatigued I could barely move. Fortunately for me I finally found out what the parasite was and my health is back to normal. At the time, because of my age and being overweight, they promptly put me in the cardiac ward. The head of cardiology (along with 9 interns) prescribed Lipitor (a statin*) to lower my cholesterol. I immediately said, “are you crazy?” My cholesterol is very low with a healthy ‘good cholesterol’ (HDL) to ‘bad cholesterol’ ratio. I also asked if any of the 10 doctors in front of me had cholesterol that good. They answered no, but they still thought I should take a statin. “Everyone over the age of 62 should take statins,” said the head of cardiology.  I refused the drug and they thought I was crazy. I knew that my medicinal mushrooms were way better anyway. Later that evening one of the interns came back to me and thanked me. It was the first time that he had seen anyone stand up to the cardiologist.

A year later I got a new GP as I moved. He asked why I wasn’t on statins. I told him because my cholesterol was quite low I didn’t need them. He is in fairly good health and mid-50s, with healthy cholesterol, but he takes Statins just in case. He thought everyone should. Are the pharmaceutical companies leading most doctors (and thus most of the Western world) down a not so healthy path? They make over $30 billion dollars a year from them.

Over the last few weeks there have been several studies showing that this just might be the case. One study that came out last week in the British Medical Journal said that: “Cholesterol does not cause heart disease in the elderly and trying to reduce it with drugs like statins is a waste of time.” In a review of research involving nearly 70,000 people it was found that there was no link between what has traditionally been considered “bad” cholesterol and the premature deaths of over 60-year-olds from cardiovascular disease. It found that 92 percent of people with a high cholesterol level lived longer.

“Lowering cholesterol with medications is a total waste of time” said Professor Sherif Sultan, University of Ireland.

The authors have called for a re-evaluation of the guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis, a hardening and narrowing of the arteries, because “the benefits from statin treatment have been exaggerated”.

Of course this has caused quite a stir in the medical community. Co-author of the study Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, an intermediate care GP, acknowledged the findings would cause controversy but defended them as “robust” and “thoroughly reviewed”.

“What we found in our detailed systematic review was that older people with high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels, the so-called “bad” cholesterol, lived longer and had less heart disease.”

Vascular and endovascular surgery expert Professor Sherif Sultan from the University of Ireland, who also worked on the study, said cholesterol is one of the “most vital” molecules in the body and prevents infection, cancer, muscle pain and other conditions in elderly people. . . whereas altering your lifestyle is the single most important way to achieve a good quality of life,” he said.

Lead author Dr Uffe Ravnskov, a former associate professor of renal medicine at Lund University in Sweden, said there was “no reason” to lower high-LDL-cholesterol.

This is not the first time this has come up; I have been saying this to patients for at least 10 years. One of the reasons is that statin drugs often come with many side effects. I started looking at this more seriously when I had several female patients come in with severe muscular pain, some being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. They were also on statins, which has the well-known side effect of muscular pain and sometimes even causing muscular damage, especially in women.  After stopping the statin for even a few weeks, their muscular problems completely went away. Of course this made me look deeper into problems related to statins. With an estimated 1 in 4 people over 40 years old taking stains, we should look at some of the significant side effects.

It appears that there may become even more widely prescribed use of statins. New cholesterol guidelines, introduced last November, could push that number to as many as 1 in 2 adults over age 40, according to a recent analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“The prevailing dogma has been that statins are almost harmless and that they’re wonderful drugs,” says Tom Perry, MD, a pharmacologist and internist in Vancouver, Canada.

Perry is part of a team of doctors at the University of British Columbia that looks at the evidence for and against drugs. They publish their findings in a free bi-monthly bulletin called Therapeutics Letter. The latest issue urged doctors to be more mindful of side effects when writing prescriptions for statins.

It is always important to look closely at anything that you are prescribed either natural or pharmaceutical. Life style changes have been proven to be the best for cardiovascular health, but sometime we need a bit of a help to get there.

*Statins include medications such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Altoprev), pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor). Lower-cost generic versions of many statin medications are available.

 

3 comments

  1. Norah Collumbell   •  

    I was first prescribed cholesterol lowering drugs nearly 20 years ago. Ever drug prescribed caused side effects which resulted in my consultant discharging me saying their was nothing he could do as I had genetically high cholesterol. Several years later my doctor persuaded me to try statins and I did this. All seemed fine until my reading went up from 5 to 5.1. I feel now that this must have triggered the acceptance target set for the practice. I was told to double my dosage?? Within weeks I had terrible muscle and joint pain and could barely climb the stairs. It took 3 months to identify it was the drugs causing it. I came off the drugs immediately. I was again persuaded to go to a consultant 2 years ago who does research. He told me about a trial of a totally new drug that he wanted me to try. I did the trial and had little reaction over the trial but within 3 weeks on going on to the actual drug had series side effects worse than when I was on Statins! I stopped taking it. The consultant told me I would die sooner! The drug will be on the market very soon. I wish I had read your message a long time ago.

  2. Dr. Beth Hedva   •  

    Thank you Terry, for your enlightning article. What do you know about Red Yeast Rice?

    Functional Medicine folks are reccomending Red Yeast Rice together with Co-Q10 and a liposomal glutathion combo to balance HDL’s and LDL’s.

    Is Red Yeast Rice the same as taking a pharmeceutical -synthetic statin–with the same side effects? Or is it genuinely a better option for functionally balancing the body?

    • admin   •     Author

      Red Yeast and especially Co-Q10 do have great benefits, without the side effects. Many of the medicinal mushrooms (Reishi, Cordyceps, Chaga) are stronger then Red Yeast though. The strongest of these by far is Oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus, Hiratake, píng gū, 平菇), either eaten as a delicious treat or taken as a powder. In fact the original statin (lovastatin) is one of its major constituents. Interesting in this form (naturally inside the mushroom) it does not have the side effects that it does if isolated. There have been several studies comparing oyster mushrooms with poplar statins like Lipitor and they have the same beneficial affect on the body, without the side effects. You would need to take 1 tsp – 1 tbsp daily of the concentrate, or eat a few ounces of the mushroom.

      I am starting a several part blog discussing botanical alternative for Cardiovascular issues. Keep in touch.

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