Statins: Yes or No?
What are statins anyway?
Statins are lipid-lowering medications, which blocks our liver’s ability to produce cholesterol. Who cares? Because lowering cholesterol helps prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality in high risk individuals.
So, what’s the problem?
Statins have a lot of unwanted SIDE EFFECTS. These include:
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Flu-like symptoms
Statins can also cause liver damage and interfere with how the brain works.
Statins to disrupt the body’s production of CoQ10, a coenzyme that is absolutely essential for cellular energy production. Given that our heart is made up of mostly muscle tissue, this interference can lead to congestive heart failure. Cardiologists recommend taking the following when on Statin medication:
- 100mg CoQ10 twice daily
- 1-2 grams L-carnitine twice daily (for muscular weakness)
- 5 grams of D-ribose sugar twice daily (for additional support)
DIET is the BETTER option!
Many patients have been prescribed Statins for good reason and should absolutely continue using the medication. If you have a high-risk of developing heart disease or currently have heart disease, Statins can reduce mortality caused by a heart attack or stroke. This could be life saving. For those who are at a lower risk, Statins are probably NOT the answer to maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. A much more powerful tool is your DIET. What does a smart cholesterol lowering diet look like?
- 40 to 45 percent low-glycemic index carbohydrates
- 30 to 35 percent healthy fats
- 20 to 25 percent protein
- Eat organic regularly
The Mediterranean-style high-fiber, healthy-fat cuisine offers the best overall diet for keeping your heart strong and maintaining a healthy weight.
In general, you want to INCREASE your intake of:
- Low-carb vegetables, such as broccoli, artichokes, asparagus, bean sprouts, and spinach
- Legumes, such as black beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, and lentils (high in B-vitamins, iron, fiber, and folic acid, which helps lower insulin levels and slows the rate of cholesterol absorption)
- Fruits containing lower sugar, such as strawberries, grapefruit, raspberries, blackberries, apples, and peaches
- Healthy fats, such as omega-3 found in oily fish like wild salmon; monounsaturated fats found in canola, olive and peanut oils; polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable, sunflower, sesame, and soybean oils
- Oats (absorbs LDL)
- Nuts and seeds, including walnuts, almonds, cashews, and flaxseed
- Garlic, which prevents blood clots, reduces blood pressure, and prevents infections
- Dark chocolate and tea, both containing powerful antioxidants that can help prevent platelets from sticking together and clogging arteries
You want to DECREASE your intake of:
- Starchy vegetables, such as corn, potatoes, squash, and zucchini
- Canned vegetables due to their high sodium content
- Partially hydrogenated oils (“trans fat”) contained in many baked good, snacks, fried food, creamer, and margarine
- Processed fruit juices and sauces loaded with extra sugar
- Omega-6 oils commonly found in salad dressings, mayonnaise, fast food, pork, and beef
Clearly, there are tons of delicious and healthy options to ensure your diet is promoting a healthy heart and lifestyle. Many more examples can be found online. It will amaze you how effective eating the right foods can be for lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, increasing your “good” HDL, and getting you on the right track to preventing cardiovascular illness and disease without the use of medication.
When is it time to try a Statin drug?
Statins are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is a major cause of coronary artery disease, so taking an anti-inflammatory like a Statin drug may certainly do your blood vessels some good. Another great property of Statins is their ability to change the shape of red blood cells, essentially making the cells less sticky and the blood less viscous. This prevents blood clots from occurring.
It’s easy to see why doctors are so quick to prescribe Statins. Certain populations are better targets than others for statin use.
Statin are most effective when taken by men, ages 50 to 75 years old, with advanced coronary disease. Why not above 75 years? The risk of nervous system side effects, including memory loss, are too great for elderly people and outweigh the small potential for any benefits. When it comes to women, only those with advanced coronary artery disease, especially diabetics or those with lots of inflammation, are candidates for Statin therapy.
In general, people with advanced heart disease, who have had a stent or angioplasty, are diabetic, or have high inflammation are candidates for Statin therapy. Statin drugs should NOT be used to simply lower cholesterol levels in patients without heart disease. Diet and nutritional modification, as described earlier, is KEY! Lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise and losing weight, is for more effective than any Statin program. These changes drastically help reduce inflammation in your body, and are the best ways to protect yourself from future cardiovascular complications.