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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 Leaning on the outdated and now uneducated vilification of fats and cholesterol, the multibillion dollar statin industry continues to thrive.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.
For this week’s post we are going to change it up and pull excerpts from an intriguing article written by Michael Downey. It is on the subject of telomeres which can best be described as caps on the end of your DNA, and how important it is to preserve them as long as possible. The topic has fascinated me for some time now, so I thought I would share. Enjoy.
“Telomeres are protective DNA molecules. Often compared to the plastic caps on the ends of shoelaces, telomeres are found on the ends of coiled pieces of DNA known as chromosomes. They keep the chromosome material from deteriorating.
Every time chromosomes divide, the telomeres at the ends shorten. The eventual shortening of telomeres is correlated with aging. Ultimately, the telomeres become so depleted that the cell can no longer divide, and that cell dies (aka apoptosis).
Scientists have made an alarming discovery: higher stress levels can cause accelerated shortening of telomeres. In a recently published study, researchers found that depression related stress results in the significant shortening of telomeres (the caps at the ends of chromosomes) an indication of accelerated aging.
The publication of this study emphasizes the importance of minimizing the impact of internal and environmental stress on the body. An estimated 75-90% of visits to primary care physicians are now related to the effects of stress, and this new study documents how lethal stress can be to our well-being and longevity.
STRESS-INDUCED HOMEOSTATIC IMBALANCE
Homeostasis is the ability and tendency of a body to maintain harmonious equilibrium by constantly readjusting its physiological processes. Cells and tissues exist in a constantly changing environment—homeostasis steers internal biochemical levels back to near-optimum points.
Physical and emotional stress triggers a cascade of biochemical changes, causing homeostatic imbalance. This interruption in homeostasis helps us prepare for dangerous external situations. (Essentially it is an activation of the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system which we have discussed numerous times before.) These changes are supposed to be moderate, infrequent, and short-term. Ordinarily, after a stressor has passed, our system adjusts—raising and lowering different biochemical levels—returning the body to homeostasis.
In today’s world, our feedback mechanisms become overwhelmed by the extent, duration, intensity, frequency, or multiple layering of stress. This produces an excessive or prolonged homeostatic imbalance (sympathetic overdrive). Studies have even found that these harmful effects can persist long after a stressful situation has been normalized.
The result can be a multitude of physical and mental diseases, including permanent organ damage, DNA effects, and the physical changes associated with aging.
Some of the many disease states associated with stress-induced homeostatic imbalance include obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, infectious disease, gastric ulcer, cancer, gastrointestinal complaints, skin issues, neurological disorders, sexual dysfunction, psychological problems, suppressed immunity, decreased memory, predisposition to Alzheimer’s, and shortened telomeres; and, as a result, accelerated cellular and tissue aging.
PROTECTION FROM THE DAMAGING EFFECTS OF STRESS
Adaptogens are a pharmacological group of compounds that metabolically support the ability of an organism to respond appropriately to stress, preserve structure and function from the damaging effects of stress, and hasten recovery of homeostasis.
When combined, adaptogens work together to modulate the multiple pathways of stress. The multiple benefits include improved mental and physical performance, reduced incidence of chronic disease, and increased longevity. Scientists investigated numerous extracts—some used for thousands of years to treat various stress-related symptoms.
This research led to four potent adaptogens that can provide a united defense against the multiple cellular pathways of chronic stress:
Telomeres, stress, anti-aging; I think you’d agree that this is truly fascinating stuff. Of course we all know that prolonged stress is a negative thing and ideally we would like to rid ourselves of it.
You can begin to do this by addressing those chronic physical stressors in our bodies. This involves combatting those nagging injuries and poor posture, as well as cleaning up that inflammatory diet; both of which cause constant physical and chemical stress.
You also want to make sure your nervous system is functioning at an optimal level so that you can deal with stress appropriately when it does inevitably arise. Being checked by a physician who utilizes functional neurology is a solid way to keep that sympathetic nervous system in check. In addition, there is various supplemental and herbal support that can assist on an individual basis.
If you have any questions about any of this or would like to take action towards removing the stressors from your life, please call and schedule an appointment today.
You can find this article in it’s entirety, as well as all of the associated references at: http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2012/jun2012_New-Reason-Avoid-Stress_01.htm.
In a culture obsessed with image and appearance, it’s no wonder that the weight loss industry continues to reign supreme. We are inundated with images of slim supermodels, shredded athletes, and air-brushed celebrities creating an often unrealistic and unattainable perception of the ideal.
While this has the potential to lead to frustration and unhealthy habits, on the other hand it can serve as motivation to drop that extra baggage. You see in a society fixated on superficial aesthetics, unfortunately, health winds up taking a back seat. If striving to fit into that bathing suit can serve as a catalyst for those slowly dying due to the extra baggage to take steps toward a healthier life, then so be it. (Call that your alkalizing lemonade out of organic lemons or your colloidal silver lining.) Provided of course, it is done in a healthy and controlled manner. No fad diets or quick fixes here.
The truth of the matter is the dangers of living life overweight or obese stretch way beyond the outward appearance. Here are 5 more hazards you may or may not have already been aware of that will hopefully spark you or someone you love to wake up and change before it’s too late.
In order to appreciate these hazards, it needs to be acknowledged that a fat cell is not a benign cell, but rather an endocrine cell; that is, a cell that secretes hormones classified as adipokines. Hormones are secreted throughout our bodies to serve as communicators and messengers in carrying out various tasks and functions. This is vital for life, but when not functioning correctly, can be severely detrimental to our health.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
I know we’ve all heard being overweight can lead to increased blood pressure, but why? Other than the fact that the body needs to work harder to do everything due to the surplus of lbs., fat cells (aka as adipocytes) actually secrete a hormone called angiotensin. Release of this hormone normally occurs due to the kidney to control blood pressure, but an excess of fat cells leads to an excess of angiotensin, leading to high blood pressure and all the well documented risks that come along with that.
INCREASED INSULIN RESISTANCE
Another hormone secreted by fat cells is called resistin. This hormone causes insulin resistance, which is one of the key factors involved with type II diabetes. Mounting research implicates the fat cell’s release of resistin as the linking factor between obesity and diabetes. Insulin resistance also is involved in hypertension and atherosclerosis.
You can’t read anything health related these days without seeing the word inflammation being named as the common denominator involved with virtually all disease processes. So what do you think the fat cells have the ability to secrete? You guessed it, numerous inflammatory mediators (i.e. PGE, TNF, IL-6) that increase pain and cause internal destruction.
INCREASED RISK FOR BLOOD CLOTS & STROKE
The hits just keep on coming here. Fat cells release something called plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1). This is a protein that essentially diminishes the body’s natural ability to breakdown clots, and enable continuous blood flow. Too much PAI-1 and you’re prone for sluggish circulation, which can culminate in clots and stroke. This poor circulation can also lead to swelling and other symptoms such as pain, numbness and tingling due to the lack of blood flow to our peripheral nerves.
This protein is also produced in the cells that line our blood vessels (endothelial cells). It is normal and quite necessary for these hormones to be present in our bodies. The main issue here is with excess fat cells comes excess presence of these hormones, leading to a loss of balance (homeostasis) and subsequent pathology.
The last issue we will touch on here is the fact that fat cells produce estrogen. The more fat cells you have, the more estrogen will be produced. Male breast cancer continues to rise congruently with obesity. An overweight male taking part in testosterone therapy is simply providing the fat cells more fuel to convert into estrogen and all the other issues correlated with elevated estrogen levels (infertility, erectile dysfunction, enlarged prostate, cancer, etc.) Excess estrogen in females can also lead to various forms of cancer, hair loss, hypothyroidism and uterine fibroids.
Obviously the consequences of carrying excess fat extend way beyond these mentioned, but add these to the continuously enlarging list. I also realize that losing weight is exponentially more difficult than simply saying the words and the degree of difficulty varies on an individual basis. However, research, evidence and history have shown us that it can be done.
If you’ve tried time and time again to no avail, and are somewhat lost at this point, but willing to truly sacrifice today in order to invest in the future, consult a healthcare professional. If you’d like to begin your path in the right direction with a nutritional consult, feel free to contact me at anytime (contact information at the top of the page to the right).
A consistent commitment to exercise and a diet overhaul can be life changing and in many cases, saving. Add the assistance of someone trained to identify functional imbalances that may be impeding your progress, and some serious momentum in the right direction can be attained. We only get one shot down here and one body to carry us through the journey. Respect life and make the investment in your future today.