Cholesterol: Rethinking Statins

As of the spring of 2014 one in four Americans over 45 were taking a cholesterol lowering drug known as a statin.  Over 43 million Americans between the ages of 40-75, along with an increasing number of younger customers are now including a Lipitor or Crestor as part of their daily regimen.

As the lab values that serve as the criteria for prescribing a statin continue to change, the umbrella for those deemed in need of statin therapy continues to widen.  Leaning on the outdated and now uneducated vilification of fats and cholesterol, the multibillion dollar statin industry continues to thrive.  Sad thing is, cardiovascular disease and overall health have not improved despite the low fat, statin fueled culture we know find ourselves in.

So is this widening spread use of statins necessary?  Is it safe?  Here are some facts about statins and cholesterol that should at the very least provoke some individual concern and subsequent investigation.

In 2012 the FDA issued a statement declaring statin drugs can cause cognitive side effects such as memory lapses and confusion.

An AMA (American Medical Association) study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine demonstrated a 48% increased risk of diabetes (a powerful risk factor for type III diabetes aka Alzheimer’s) among women taken statins.

It is well known that statins paralyze cells’ ability to make coenzyme Q10, a vitamin like substance found throughout the body, where it serves as an antioxidant and energy producer.  Depletion of CoQ10 leads to fatigue, shortness of breath, mobility & balance problems, muscular pain & weakness. CoQ10 deficiency has also been linked to heart failure, hypertension & Parkinson’s.  CoQ10 has actually been proposed as a treatment for Alzheimer’s.  At the absolute very least, individuals currently undergoing statin therapy should consult with their physician about adding CoQ10 to their regimen.

How about Vitamin D deficiency? Vitamin D is derived from cholesterol in the skin. When statins lower cholesterol, the ability to generate Vitamin D is hampered leading to (amongst other things)  a heightened risk for diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease and ultimately dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Consider the fact that our sex hormones are also derived from cholesterol.  Lowering cholesterol through use of statins and diet can lead to lower testosterone levels and subsequent decreased libido and ED (erectile dysfunction) which are common complaints amongst statin users.

LOWER levels of cholesterol have been linked to depression, dementia and even earlier death.

This type of information and suffering will hopefully continue to provoke reconsideration and remodeling of the current paradigm.  As we learn more through research and prior failures, the appropriate response is to act on this newfound knowledge and improve.  Unfortunately pride and profits appear to be standing in the way, so it is on us as individuals to educate and investigate when it comes to our health.

When it comes to evaluating cholesterol levels, they are usually included in a lipid panel. This entire process should be reevaluated as well, but there are ways to alter and more accurately measure your triglyceride and small LDL.  Before resorting to a statin, why not attempt to uncover the reason for the unfavorable levels, and attempt to remedy it?

How about starting with rethinking the dietary approach?

No not the seemingly logical, oversimplified and outdated, disproven theory that dietary fats and cholesterol are the main culprits behind “bad” cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

You must once again look to carbohydrates and the subsequent release of insulin, which triggers fatty acid synthesis in the liver.  This starts the chain that eventually leads to the rise of triglycerides and “bad” cholesterol.  It is no coincidence that diabetes (a disease which features erratic blood sugar and insulin levels) is associated with the lipid triad of low HDL or “good” cholesterol, and high triglycerides and small LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

(Calling HDL and LDL cholesterol is actually incorrect as the “L” actually stands for Lipoprotein, and the “HD” and “LD” stand for High or Low Density.  These are carrier proteins that transport cholesterol throughout the body.)

The majority of type II diabetes can be reversed by reducing carb consumption, and the same holds true for naturally improving your lipid panel.

Another area to look at is thyroid function.

Patients with hypothyroid symptoms often display a lipid panel that includes high triglycerides and high LDL due to the body making fat much quicker than it can burn it.  The slower metabolism seen with hypothyroidism leads to:

…a sluggish liver and gall bladder making fat less likely to be metabolized and cleared from the body.

…it causes cells to be less receptive to LDL circulating which sets the stage for the LDL to accumulate and be oxidized.  This is actually when LDL becomes harmful, not merely its presence alone as it is actually necessary to deliver vital cholesterol to our body’s tissues.

…leaves an individual less able to burn fat as fuel as a healthy person would.  This creates a reliance on glucose (carbs/sugar) for fuel and the subsequent insulin release, fat storage and higher triglycerides and small LDL.

Diet and hampered thyroid function are just two possible reasons for an unfavorable lipid profile, and in many cases can be improved with lifestyle changes and the application of functional medicine.  Depending on the individual, cleaning up the menu, fortifying the digestive system, balancing the immune system, supporting the adrenal and thyroid glands and detoxification pathways can all be used to improve underlying function, which in turn creates a healthier human who can hopefully steer clear of statins and the accompanying baggage.

As always, consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes.  If you are interested in a unique, knowledgable approach based on the most current research, experience and understanding of the underlying function of the body and would like to learn more, call us today.

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