Submitted by David Overton
The FDA recently issued warnings on statin cholesterol drugs, such as Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor and others. One has to consider if the risk of taking a statin drug to lower cholesterol to help prevent arteriosclerosis is worth the risk of developing other problems.
Statin drugs block enzymes in the liver, pancreas, kidney, brain, heart and other organs. Blocking enzymes in the liver lowers cholesterol but affects the other organs. Statin drugs may raise blood sugar leading to diabetes. Many people, especially obese people, already have pre-diabetes which is easily diagnosed and managed with a 4 hour glucose tolerance test. Pre-diabetes and diabetes cause high cholesterol, stroke, dementia and heart disease. Dr. Alan Gaby, MD estimates “for every three heart attacks prevented by a statin, approximately one new case of diabetes will occur”. Is a statin drug worth this risk?
Statin drugs can impair memory and cognition that may not disappear when the drug is stopped. Having memory loss may be worse than heart disease, so one might consider alternatives to drugs.
Statin drugs deplete CoQ10, increasing risk for heart stain and heart failure. Heart strain or failure is the most costly epidemic in America today, because it is not diagnosed early, the correct prevention measures and drugs are not commonly used and patients get hospitalized too frequently. Consumer Labs analyzed 32 CoQ10 brands and found many pills had anywhere from zero to 17% to 175% CoQ10 levels. CoQ10 is poorly absorbed and often requires specific formulas to aid absorption and activation in the cells. I only recommend two specific brands.
Consumer Labs analyzed cholesterol lowering supplements and found many are poorly made, especially red rice yeast, a statin alternative. Only two red rice yeast products were recommended and the dose on the label is too low on one popular brand. I only recommend specific brands for these reasons.
Fish oil supplements are popular and again problematic because of manufacturing and dose issues. I only recommend Omega 3 fish oil supplements with doses equivalent to the prescription type. European studies found fish oil supplements outdo statin drugs in patients with heart failure, while helping to reduce cholesterol. Alternative medicines (there are many others) should be considered to prevent statin drug side effects.
References: Wall Street Journal, 2/29/12. Townsend Newsletter for Doctors & Patients, 2/2004, 8/2004, Associated Press 9/2/08.
What happens if your cholesterol goes too low? Lower cholesterol levels are not always better. The American Family Physician Journal 11/2005 revealed those 65 years and older were twice as likely to die if cholesterol was 175 or lower than cholesterol of 226 or more.
Studies done by Group Health Cooperative at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle in 1999 found those with cholesterol below 180 had twice the risk of hemorrhagic stroke as those with cholesterol of 230. Hemorrhagic strokes are where a blood vessel in the brain ruptures.
The Journal of Cardiac Failure 3/12 issue analysis of 3200 Koreans found that cholesterol below 190 had lower hemoglobin (to carry oxygen), higher BNP (a test for heart failure) and were at higher risk for death and hospitalization from heart failure.
Optimal cholesterol levels are controversial and best kept between 190 and 220. What’s the point of lowering your cholesterol to prevent a heart attack only to die younger, have a stroke or suffer from heart failure? Do not stop your cholesterol drugs but do find a clinician to discuss your risks and consider alternatives.
We have lots of ways to lower cholesterol. Start with:
- Articles on my website: how to lower LDL cholesterol (the most lethal form) and how to raise HDL cholesterol (the healthy form)
- See us for medical weight loss programs. Excess fat cells generate cholesterol. Losing weight reduces cholesterol
- See us for pre-diabetes or diabetes testing and management. Treatments to correct blood sugar problems reduce cholesterol
- See us for specific supplements and other treatments to manage high cholesterol
- High cholesterol is often caused by chronic and not obvious viral and bacterial infections. See me for information and treatments
If you have high cholesterol, it means you have increased risk for circulation problems, stroke, dementia, kidney disease, heart attack and heart disease. Typically, circulation damage is already present if you have high cholesterol but most doctors wait until you have a heart attack or stroke to start treatments. We recommend:
- A thorough review of lifestyle and genetic risk factors we can treat and manage
- Thorough questioning in appointments to identify and manage symptoms
- Physical exams for identify and manage physical findings (fluid retention, abnormal heart sounds, others)
- Testing for kidney functions. As kidney functions decline, risks for circulation damage, stroke and heart disease increase. Improving kidney functions manages and reduces risks for circulation damage
- Testing red blood cells. If red cells are abnormal, you cannot distribute oxygen to your organs, leading to circulation damage and degenerative diseases. Improving red cells improves oxygen to your organs.
- Testing albumin levels. Abnormal albumin is more damaging to circulation than high cholesterol and normalizing urine and blood levels of albumin reduces circulation damage
- ECG (also known as EKG or electrocardiogram) to check electrical patterns for circulation damage and heart disease. Early diagnosis and treatment manages circulation damage
- CardioRisk artery scan to diagnose and manage artery damage or plaques before you have a stroke or heart attack
- Thorough review of any previous circulation or cardiology tests. They will often be abnormal, even if you were told they were normal, and we start preventative and therapeutic treatments
- Glucose tolerance testing to find and manage pre-diabetes
- CRP testing to find and manage vasculitis (damaged blood vessels)
- Fibrinogen testing to find and manage blood clot risks and sludgy blood
- LP PLA2 (the blood test for plaque rupture risks). If abnormal, there are treatments to prevent or reduce the risk of plaque ruptures, which clog arteries
- Treating low blood pressure, which is often a sign of circulation and kidney damage
- Treating abnormal pulse pressure, which is more damaging than high cholesterol. Normal blood pressure is 120/70. Normal pulse pressure 50 (120 minus 70). Levels less than or more than 50 are often associated with treatable heart valve or kidney damage.
- Positional vital signs (checking blood pressure and heart rate when lying down and standing up
- We have many other tests and ways to find and manage circulation damage that are more accurate or important than cholesterol levels
David Overton, PA-C works at Natural Medicines & Family Practice combining conventional and alternative treatments under the supervision of Dr. Richard Faiola, MD, ABFM. 360-357-8054 or www.natmeds.net or find us on Facebook.