statin drugs

  1. Thankfully, you can still lower your cholesterol without statins!

    Today is Thanksgiving. And I'm thankful that even a mainstream doc like David Katz from the Yale University School of Medicine has admitted the obvious: You can lower your cholesterol without taking statin drugs. In fact, according to Dr. Katz's new research, you may be able to lower your cholesterol, even if you're diabetic, by eating one of my favorite snack foods.

    Preventing heart disease if you've got diabetes

    If you're diabetic, your blood sugar is constantly on your mind. And rightfully so. But what about heart disease?

    Heart disease is a major complication of diabetes. In fact, if you've got diabetes you're just as likely to suffer a heart attack as someone who's already had one. The build-up of plaque in your arteries is usually to blame.

    So how do you guard against a heart attack if you've already got diabetes?

    Without blinking an eye, most doctors will write you a prescription for a statin drug. And sure, these drugs can lower your cholesterol. But they can also cause permanent muscle damage as well as other serious side effects.

    Plus, in one major study, men and women who took statin drugs died of a heart attack just as often as those who didn't take them (but just took better care of themselves).

    More than one way to skin a cat
    If you've got diabetes and high cholesterol, you don't have to resort to statin drugs. In fact, Dr. Katz found that diabetics could potentially lower their "overall cardiac risk" just by eating walnuts.

    Dr. Katz and his team asked 24 middle-aged diabetics to take part in their study. Half of them maintained their established eating pattern. The other half ate a small handful of walnuts (56 grams) each day for eight weeks.

    After eight weeks, the walnut eaters experienced:

    • Improved cholesterol levels
    • Improved blood sugar
    • Improved health of blood vessels

    What makes walnuts so great for your heart? Well, for starters, they contain omega-3 fatty acids, similar to the kind you find in fish.

    But isn't fish oil better for your heart?

    Fish like salmon and tuna contain powerful omega-3 fatty-acids called EPA and DHA. Without a doubt, these nutrients play a vital role in protecting your heart. Even the American Heart Association admits as much. According to their web site:

    "Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease risk of arrhythmias, which can lead to sudden cardiac death; decrease triglyceride levels; decrease growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque; and lower blood pressure (slightly)."

    But walnuts (as well as flaxseeds and chia seeds) contain a lesser-known nutrient called ALA that gets converted into EPA and DHA in the body. And ALA seems to play a unique role in regulating cholesterol in the body. In fact, in another study, published earlier this year, walnuts lowered cholesterol better than fish in healthy individuals.

    Now, I'm not saying to forget the fish. Rather, just toss in a handful of walnuts, too. Keep unsalted, organic walnuts in your kitchen. Sprinkle them on salads or your oatmeal. Just make sure to get a handful a day to support healthy cholesterol levels.

  2. Muscle damage: More reasons to avoid statin drugs

    It's not uncommon to hear someone who takes a statin drug (like Crestor, Lipitor or Zocor) complain of muscle aches and pains. But that's a fairly benign trade-off, right? After all, these drugs help lower your cholesterol.

    Well, not so fast. Statin drugs are far more dangerous than Big Pharma wants you to know. In fact, even those "benign" aches and pains could be much more serious than you think.

    According to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, statin drugs may actually cause structural damage to your muscles. Plus -- the damage may be irreversible. So even if you stop taking the drug, the muscle pain and weakness doesn't go away.

    Defining muscle pain
    Here's the deal. About 10 to 15 percent of people taking statin drugs reportedly experience minor muscle aches and weakness called myalgia. A smaller percentage of people taking statins experience severe weakness or pain that doesn't go away. This is called myopathy. You're more likely to suffer from myopathy if you take a statin drug and:

    • You're over 65
    • You take certain types of prescription drugs
    • You follow a rigorous exercise regimen

    Oh yes -- and you're more likely to suffer from muscle pain or weakness by taking higher doses of statin drugs.

    Connecting the dots
    The authors of recent study wanted to see if this type of statin-induced muscle pain was an indication of a bigger problem. They biopsied muscle samples from 44 men and women who suffered from statin-induced myopathy. Prior to the biopsy, the patients had been taking a variety of different statin drugs, including: Zocor, Pravachol, Lipitor, Lescol, and Crestor.

    According to the results, almost 57 percent of the biopsied samples (in 25 out of 44 patients) had confirmed structural damage to the muscle fibers.

    And in case you're wondering -- their muscles didn't necessarily repair themselves once they stopped taking the statin. In fact, the study included several samples from patients who had stopped taking their statin drug at least three weeks prior to the study. So even though these patients no longer had statins in their blood stream, their tissues still reflected structural damage.

    This led the researchers to conclude that not only could statin drugs cause damage, but in some patients they may also inhibit the body's ability to repair damaged muscles.

    Predictable results…
    So why do the results of this study not surprise me? Well, you may recall that in 2001 the statin drug Baycol was pulled off the market. Any guess why?

    You got it. It caused muscle damage.

    In fact, Baycol was linked to 52 deaths due to rhabdomyolysis, a rapid deterioration of muscle tissue. It's no small stretch to assume that the other statin drugs on the market (which perform similar chemical actions in the body) would cause similar -- perhaps not fatal -- damage to your muscle tissue.

    Now onto kids…
    The results of this latest study have me particularly angry, especially when I think of all the kids who may suffer irreparable muscle damage.

    As you'll recall, last year the American Association of Pediatricians (the most ill-informed docs on the planet, in my opinion) recommended that children as young as 8 years old get screened for high cholesterol. If their numbers are high, their pediatrician should get them on a statin, according to the AAP.

    But if these drugs can cause irreversible damage to adult muscles, imagine what they might do to young children with growing muscles!

    Healthy tickers without statins
    There's plenty you can do to prevent a heart attack without taking a statin drug for the rest of your life. The first step is to stop smoking (if you smoke). The second step is to give your diet an overhaul. Cutting out processed and fried foods is a must. The third step is to get moving. Just a 10 minute walk every day that raises your pulse will make a big difference.

    Lastly, in additional to a quality daily vitamin, consider adding these heart-wise supplements to your regimen:

    1. 1,000 mg L-Carnitine
    2. 100 mg Coenzyme Q10
    3. 500 to 800 mg Magnesium
    4. 400 to 800 IU Vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols)

    In closing, if you currently take a statin drug and experience muscle pain, I seriously hope you'll reconsider your options. Seek the advice of a qualified naturopath to help you map out a personalized plan that doesn't include a statin drug.

  3. What is it this time, Eddie?

    You‘ve gotta hand it to Big Pharma. They‘ve been busy in the kitchen again, cooking up yet another use for their popular statin drugs. For years, Big Pharma has been busy promoting "off label" benefits of these popular cholesterol-lowering drugs. Big Pharma wants you to know this: not only will their statin drug cut your cholesterol, but it will also improve your rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, bone mass, and Alzheimer‘s disease. Every time one of these studies comes out, it makes a big splash in the headlines: "Statin drugs prevent Alzheimers! The world is saved!" But in my opinion, these studies look like they were written by PR hacks rather than real scientists. I‘ve yet to see any real significant data supporting the claim that a statin drug does anything besides modestly lower your cholesterol. So when I read about this new statin drug study, I rolled my eyes and felt a little like Mr. Cleaver when Eddie Haskel showed up -- yet again -- at the door. What are we taking statin drugs for this time? Depression? ADHD? Prematurely graying hair? Well, before I let that surprise out of the bag, let me remind you of a thing or two about these popular cholesterol busters. Your friendly neighborhood statin drug Today, millions of Americans take cholesterol-lowering drugs like Lipitor, Crestor, and Zocor. Yes, they lower your cholesterol. But why are we taking them? Do they significantly improve your rate of dying from heart disease or heart attack (as compared to just taking better care of yourself)? The bottom line is: no, they don‘t. In one massive study of 10,000 people, researchers compared the use of statin drugs to "usual care" in treating subjects with moderately high levels of LDL cholesterol. (Usual care meant that participants maintained a proper body weight, didn’t smoke, and regularly exercised.) The results of the study showed that participants taking statin drugs lowered their cholesterol by 28%. While the "usual care" group lowered their cholesterol by only 11%. But here‘s the kicker: both groups showed the same rates of death from heart attack and heart disease. So -- yes -- statins can lower your cholesterol. But they don‘t work any better than "usual care" in preventing deaths from heart attack or heart disease. And given the slew of side effects associated with statin drug use -- including muscle pain, liver damage, neuropathy, memory loss, nausea, and difficulty sleeping -- you‘re much better off hitting the treadmill for 10 minutes a day and cutting out the fried chicken! For the record, 1 + 1 does not equal 3 It‘s my belief that -- in most cases -- if you are following healthy eating habits, you shouldn‘t worry too much about your cholesterol. In fact, we all need a certain amount of cholesterol to function. Each and every cell in our body contains cholesterol. It helps maintain proper digestion, blood sugar, hormonal balance, and neurological function. Cholesterol also helps the body repair itself. In fact, scar tissue cells contain high amounts of cholesterol. Plus -- lots of scientists believe high cholesterol doesn‘t increase your risk of dying from a heart attack (likewise, low cholesterol doesn’t protect you from suffering a heart attack). In fact, in one important study, scientists found that roughly 50 percent of all heart attack patients have what are considered to be normal, healthy cholesterol levels. So why are we trying so feverishly to lower our cholesterol, if it‘s not protecting us from heart attacks? Well, that question seems to keep the Big Pharma execs up at night. So -- as I said earlier -- they‘ve been busy in the kitchen cooking up other uses. Going after what keeps men up at night The new studies out on statin drugs involve prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction, two worries men often have as they get older. (As men over 50 are the prime candidates for statin drugs, why does this new study not surprise me?) In this study, researchers looked at data over the last 15 years for 2,447 men ages 40 to 79. They discovered that men taking statin drugs were less likely to develop prostate cancer, compared to men who did not take statins. Men taking statin drugs for nine years were also less likely to have erectile dysfunction. But men who had been taking the drugs for fewer than three years didn‘t experience a decreased risk of suffering from ED. There are a few of problems I have with this study. First of all, 2,447 men is hardly a large sampling. (Sure, I’ve cited smaller studies on certain vitamins to prove a point. But when you‘re talking about prescription drugs, with serious side effects, a large and diverse sampling is a must. Show me a study of 10,000 men, like the one mentioned earlier, and you‘ve got my attention.) The study was not placebo controlled, meaning they didn‘t compare results of men taking statins versus men taking a placebo (or sugar pill). Again, it‘s a basic parameter I‘m looking for in any prescription drug study. Plus -- all the men were white and living in Olmsted County, Minnesota. For Pete‘s sake, you can‘t draw any significant conclusions if all the men come from the same darn county! There might be something else underlying here that we don‘t know about that‘s making their prostate cancer rates go down. Maybe everyone in this county drinks green tea. Who knows? It’s possible! And that‘s why you need a diverse sampling. The last problem I have with this study is a big one. It was funded, in part, by Merck Pharmaceuticals. When you see a study that‘s funded by a pharmaceutical company, you might as well just flush it. Do you suspect that they set out to prove that statin drugs prevent prostate cancer and ED? Numbers can be finessed to say a lot of different things. Take the reigns To wrap up, let me just say that there is plenty you can do to prevent a heart attack without resorting to long-term statin drug use. If you really want to cut your risk, the first step is to stop smoking (if you smoke). The second step is to get your diet in order. Cutting out processed and fried foods is a must. The third step is to get moving. Even a 10 minute walk three times a week is a move in the right direction. Lastly, begin to add a few important nutrients to your regimen. Here‘s what I recommend to help keep your ticker strong: 1. Add L-Carnitine: 1,000 mg 2. Coenzyme Q10: 100 mg 3. Magnesium: 500 to 800 mg 4. Vitamin E: 400 to 800 IU (as mixed tocopherols) As always, work with a trusted doctor or naturopath. These guidelines can and should be tailored to fit your individual needs.

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