Cholesterol is a necessary part of almost all metabolic processes in the body. Without it we could not survive.
In the early 80s there were some landmark studies linking cholesterol levels to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Since then, all kinds of conclusions have been made as to what this means, what numbers are “normal”, and how those numbers change depending on your medical history.
Drug companies have invented a class of drugs called statins that lower plasma cholesterol levels from 10-50%, depending on the type of drug given and the amount. Statins are prescribed so frequently that they are now a multi-billion dollar industry.
Unfortunately, they also have side effects that can be devastating to some patients. In my practice, I have had to take many patients off their statin drugs because of side effects such as muscle pains, aching, and fatigue. In addition, the medical community has no long term studies (20-30 years) to see what the consequences of taking statins will be.
Here are some facts to keep in mind.
•There has been no evidence that having low cholesterol reduces the risk of first time heart attack. In fact, half of those with a first time heart attack have normal cholesterol levels. In a study of 10,000 people comparing those taking a statin to those that did not but maintained their weight and exercised, there was no difference in outcome of any kind.1 Did you get that?
•There is LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). Statins lower both, and the problem is we want to see HDL increased. In fact, it seems that heart health results more from increasing HDL than lowering LDL. Drug companies are scrambling to find a drug that raises HDL, but so far without success. Only exercise and the B vitamin, niacin, have been proven to raise HDL.
My personal heart disease prevention plan looks like this:
1. High intensity exercise on a consistent & regular basis
2. A diet consisting of natural foods — high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in trans fats
3. EPA-DHA Fish oil supplements, 3-4 grams daily (Metagenics EPA-DHA 720)
4. Multi-vitamin/mineral supplements (Metagenics Wellness Essentials for Men)
5. UltraMeal shake (2 scoops per day) by Metagenics
6. Coenzyme Q10 (Metagenics NanoCell Q10 200 mg daily)
7. Grass-fed beef to increase omega-3 fatty acids
8. Green tea extract for extra antioxidants (Metagenics Celepro)
Instead of rushing to take a statin, find a physician you trust and take some time to talk to him or her about your particular situation. You may find that with a proper diet, nutritional supplements, and moderate exercise, your risk of a heart attack from all causes can be dramatically reduced.
1. JAMA December 18, 2002;288:1998-3007,3042-3044.
2. NEJM November 27, 1997 Vol 337 number 22:1631-1633.