Statins are Worse than Useless

I have posted previously about the myth that lowering cholesterol will prevent heart attacks and other cardiovascular disasters. I urge you to not “buy into” one of the biggest frauds perpetuated by Big Pharma. What is really sad is that most conventionally trained doctors feel forced to “cover their butts” and prescribe statins the minute total cholesterol levels go above the quite random number of 200. Lipid science and the role of fats in human health is really much more complex than that. Don’t assume a statin is the “right” drug for you. In fact, there are only a few, relatively rare, circumstances in which a statin would be the best choice therapy. Evidence continues to emerge that statins cause cancer and dementia, or at least hasten the onset of these scourge diseases. At the very least please know that statins “work” (when they occasionally do help) not by lowering cholesterol (that is incidental, and hopefully the patient will survive that insult) but because they have some anti-inflammatory effect. However, there are much safer anti-inflammatory medicines (enzymes, deeply pigmented spices such as tumeric, deeply pigmented foods such as blueberries come to mind). Check out an article in Business Week from earlier this year. Here’s another site to help with your cholesterol research.

When I see patients who have been told they “need” a statin drug, I will help to break this down for them. The only reason to “need” a statin if is there is evidence of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries that cannot be reduced any other way. Cholesterol level is a very soft indicator for cardiovascular risk. It is well known that at least 60% of folks coming to a hospital with their first heart attack have cholesterol levels under 200. I review the major parameters of cardiovascular risk with all of my patients: blood pressure, diet, exercise habit, smoking habit, C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, family history, co-morbidities such as diabetes or metabolic syndrome and current levels of plaque. A handy, non-invasive and relatively inexpensive way to check for plaque is an ultrasound of the carotid artery (in the side of the neck). The lining of the carotid wall (the intima) can be measured, and a thickness of over 1 mm is considered suggestive of plaque. You can google “intima media thickness” for lots more information on this topic. Here’s a good article published over a decade ago in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association.