Statins are prescribed to nearly one-fourth of all American adults based on the outdated notion that lowering cholesterol levels is the way to prevent cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, for the overwhelming majority of statin users, the drugs don’t even cut heart disease risk—but instead can actually boost risk for a variety of other diseases, many of which will then need additional drugs to “control,” bringing with them their own set of risks and side-effects. To say the least, statins are anything but a cure.
So what to do when your doc wants to put you on a statin? If your numbers are borderline or you don’t have any major cardiac risk factors, your first response should be “not so fast, partner.” Unless you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, have had a heart attack or stroke, or have a family history of early heart attack or death, you probably don’t need a statin at all. So, don’t let the doc put you on one simply to cover their arse, ‘cus statins won’t cover yours.
Always remember, you are the client, the boss, the owner of your body and although your doctor’s heart might be in the right place, don’t immediately sign on for a drug that may be an unnecessary, ineffective and potentially dangerous treatment for a problem you don’t have – and here’s why:
Statins Make You Feel Old and Tired Before Your Time
Muscle pain, inability to concentrate, memory problems, and general brain fog are common side effects, which many doctors will brush off as ‘normal’ consequences of statin use. Easy for them to say! If the muscular and cognitive issues weren’t enough, statins also increase diabetes risk, so any of these three chronic problems that we commonly attribute to aging—aches and pains, mental decline and diabetes— may actually be the statins doing a number on you! What other ‘normal’ side-effects might you be expected to tolerate? How about:
- Reduced energy
- Lack of interest in activity
- Increased fatigue after exercise
- Erectile dysfunction and reduced ability to achieve orgasm
- Memory loss and/or confusion, Alzheimer’s-like symptoms
- Liver dysfunction
- Digestive problems: nausea, gas, diarrhea, constipation
- Rash or flushing
- Increased risk of cataracts
Statins Don’t Meaningfully Cut the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Life-threatening Illness or Death
As if cognitive problems, increased diabetes risk and muscle pain weren’t enough, keep in mind that statins aren’t even an effective approach to reducing cardiovascular disease. True, they do lower LDL cholesterol. But cholesterol by itself is not a major risk factor for heart disease or stroke. Since your brain, and every part of your body depends on cholesterol to function, drastically reducing it may actually be counterproductive to health.
Statins May Offer Minimal Benefits to Just 1 Out of 140 Patients
In most cases, there is no good reason to take statins. When they reviewed the studies, researchers found that for every 140 patients treated with statins, only one would benefit—and even so, there was no overall reduction in death or life-threatening illness. However, for men over 50 who have had a heart attack, statins show some ability to lower the chances of a second heart attack. However, this effect may not be about lowering cholesterol but instead about reducing inflammation, which can be lowered more effectively with diet, supplements, and lifestyle changes.
Statins: Fantastic for Corporate Profits; You, Not So Much
If nothing else, statins are a cash cow for the pharmaceutical companies, and as long as they can continue to put out the way-off-base message that everybody should be popping them like candy, they will continue to reap the financial benefits. But from a sustainable wellness perspective, I believe there is simply no reason for most people to take statins—and far too many reasons not to, including:
- There is no evidence that statins reduce the incidence of first-time heart attack, or that they reduce mortality (the chances of dying).
- Three-quarters of first-time heart attacks occur in people whose cholesterol measures low or “normal.”
- Some tests do give a more nuanced and specific portrait of LDL particles—but there is no research showing that these tests have any greater ability to predict heart attacks than the standard measures.
- In a database study of nearly 26,000 beneficiaries of Tricare, the military health system, those taking statins were 87 percent more likely to develop diabetes.
- 1 in 10 people on statins develop muscle pains.
- A growing body of research links statins to violent death, for instance, suicide and homicide probably because lowering cholesterol affects our neurotransmitters, which affect thought and emotion.
So if your doctor presses the issue, remind them of these disturbing facts about statins, and get a second opinion. Discuss your preference for a less potentially debilitating, drug-free option. If your primary care physician won’t work with you to take charge of your health in a supportive way, it may be time to consider adding an integrative physician to your team to help get your health on track.