TriVita Health: Cholesterol-lowering drugs –Do they help?
Healthcare professionals continue to debate the benefits of statin drugs
Statin drugs have become big business. The use of these cholesterol-lowering drugs increased by 156% between 2000 and 2005, rising from 15.8 million people to 29.7 million people.
Statins are currently the best-selling medicines in history, used by more than 13 million Americans and more than 12 million additional patients around the world, producing $27.8 billion in sales in 2006. Half of that amount went to Pfizer alone for its leading statin, Lipitor.
North Americans are bombarded with messages from doctors, pharmaceutical companies and the media saying that high levels of bad cholesterol are the ticket to an early grave and must be brought down now. Yet, many respected healthcare professionals question the benefits of these drugs. They point out that different clinical trials were biased or only showed marginal benefits. Some researchers even have doubts about the need to drive down cholesterol levels in the first place.
The debate about the effectiveness of statins continues and each side offers statistics to support their position. Statin proponents point to studies that suggest these medications may prevent heart attacks and strokes among people who don’t already have cardiovascular disease or elevated cholesterol levels. And there are even studies that claim statins can help protect against dementia or Alzheimer’s.
However, there are just as many respected healthcare professionals who feel that statin drugs are unnecessary and possibly even dangerous. Some of these people question whether cholesterol automatically is the culprit in most heart diseases.
“Cholesterol is just one of the risk factors for coronary disease,” explains Dr. Ronald M. Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at the Oakland Research Institute, in a Business Week article. “Higher LDL levels do help set the stage for heart disease by contributing to the buildup of plaque in arteries. But something else has to happen before people get heart disease. When you look at patients with heart disease, their cholesterol levels are not that much higher than those without heart disease.”
Still others point to the ever-growing body of evidence that shows potentially serious side effects from statins. The most common side effect is muscle pain and weakness, most likely due to the depletion of CoQ-10, a nutrient that supports muscle function. Some healthcare providers suggest taking a CoQ-10 supplement to help protect against statin side effects. To find out more, go to http://trivita.com/13134349
Other potential side effects from large statin doses may include anemia, acidosis, frequent fevers, cataracts and lessening of mental acuity.
Now there’s even more controversy about statins being overused and oversold to the wrong people. Just recently the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) started recommending cholesterol-lowering statin
drugs to obese children as young as age eight. Statins have long played a role in the fight against a childhood disease called familial hyper-cholesterolemia. However, the AAP is now making widespread
recommendations for a whole generation of eight year olds.
The AAP has been strongly criticized for its statement by the food and nutrition industries. Some say that no studies have been performed to show that this course of action is both necessary and successful. They suggest that doctors should emphasize the value of dietary approaches. An article in Nutraingredients.com states, “The lifestyles of these children have got them into this state; their lifestyle must get them out of it. And that means changing their diet.”
How to lower cholesterol naturally Here are a variety of ways to lower your cholesterol naturally without any potentially dangerous side effects:
• Make sure you get plenty of high quality, Omega-3 fatty acids
• Reduce grains and sugars in your daily diet
• Include soluble fibers containing psyllium seed
• Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables: five servings for children, seven for women and nine for men
• Try to eat a good portion of your food raw
• Get the right amount of exercise – this will help increase blood flow throughout your body and also raise HDL, the protective “good” cholesterol
• Avoid smoking and drinking excessive alcohol
• Don’t become overwhelmed by emotional challenges – use prayer, meditation or relaxation techniques to lower stress levels.