Statins’ Magic Button: When You Have A Choice

Worldwide, heart disease is the leading cause of death, and for decades, health authorities have promoted the idea that it is caused by dietary fat and cholesterol “clogging up the arteries”. As a result, cholesterol-lowering medications — the class of drugs called statins in particular — have become, by far, the most widely used intervention for the prevention of heart attacks.

Statins are literally the most prescribed drugs in the United States. An estimated 35-40 million people in the United States, 7-8 million people in England, and millions more people worldwide now take statins, like Crestor (rosuvastatin), Lescol (fluvastatin), Lipitor (atorvastatin), Livalo (pitavastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), and Zocor (simvastatin).

Doctors make prescribing decisions about statins based both on cholesterol guidelines set by health authorities and on the results of various cardiovascular disease risk calculators, considering such factors as age, cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, obesity, gender, family history, ethnicity, smoking, and diabetes.

The latest guidelines and risk calculators suggest that at least one billion of the world’s adults are eligible for statins.

Almost half of Americans ages 40 to 75, and nearly ALL men over 60 qualify to consider cholesterol-lowering statin drugs!

Many independent researchers have a profound feeling of disappointment with the health care industry in general, especially because of statins and cholesterol health.

A wide range of health issues is determined by commercial interests and by experts who are more interested in preserving their own careers than properly informing the public. Many people just serve the interests of the pharmaceutical industry rather than the health of patients.

Where cholesterol-lowering guidelines are concerned, at least half of the experts on the panel setting the guidelines have direct financial links with the pharmaceutical companies that make cholesterol-lowering statins. Perhaps we should not be surprised, then, that the threshold for what is considered an ideal cholesterol level has always been lowered with each update to the guidelines, making millions more people eligible overnight for statins and other cholesterol-lowering medications that are in the pipeline. You will be shocked by the discrepancies between what we the general public are told and the actual scientific evidence.

Not following the guidelines could be seen as not implementing “best practice”. That is, not professional.

Most importantly, this kind of new guidelines (and more new guidelines to come) strike fear into people who are actually healthy. It’s fear of consequences, or even fear of possible death. It could change their everyday life forever. People tend to overthink about their health and become unhappy under this kind of stresses. This often affects their relationships with their family members or friends too…

They are most likely to give in, and live on the medicines prescribed for them and acknowledge their “destinies”.

In fact, the current approach serves to unnecessarily convert millions of healthy people into patients!

Some of the risk factors are valid, but some are not, and the focus on a short list of suggested risk factors neglects the underlying, genuine causes of heart disease.

Doctors might become so focused on driving down cholesterol that they do not have sufficient time to talk to their patients about physical activity, stress reduction, or other important lifestyle changes.
Let’s look at the essential question, in a new, patient-friendly perspective:

What Do Statins Do?

Our body produces cholesterol because it is critical for life. Cholesterol is produced in the liver in a complex series of biochemical reactions involving 25 steps. Statin drugs work by blocking one step, the enzyme synthesis, thus inhibiting the liver’s ability to produce cholesterol. This causes an increase in the number of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptors on the surface of liver cells, resulting in more cholesterol being removed from the bloodstream.

Statins is based on the well-known theory that there are two kinds of cholesterol. Now most people are familiar with the concept of “good” and “bad” cholesterol. High density lipoproteins (HDLs) are considered “good” and low density lipoproteins (LDLs) are “bad.”

These designations are quite remarkable considering the fact that HDLs and LDLs are not really cholesterol!

Cholesterol does not mix with water; therefore, in order for it to be transported through the bloodstream it has to be carried inside something called a lipoprotein. Lipoproteins carry a number of very important materials that are needed by the body’s cells, and they also participate in the immune system. HDLs and LDLs do contain cholesterol, but they also contain CoQ10, vitamin E, and other substances. The cholesterol found in HDLs is exactly the same as the cholesterol found in LDLs.
Most cholesterol is made in the liver. LDLs transport cholesterol from the liver to the cells, including those cells in the walls of coronary arteries. HDLs transport cholesterol back to the liver.

It might seem logical to suggest that LDLs are bad because they transport cholesterol to artery walls. However, this is a normal and vitally important function of the body. All cells need cholesterol, which is a major component of the cellular membrane. Cholesterol makes cells waterproof; cells need to be waterproof in order for the internal structure of the cell to be protected from its external environment. Therefore, a mechanism is required to enable all cells to get the cholesterol they need. LDLs provide this important mechanism. When cells become damaged, they require cholesterol to help repair the damage.

However, this important issue is conveniently ignored by those who support the idea of good and bad cholesterol.

There are a large number of reasons why cells within the walls of the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart might become damaged. Smoking cigarettes, high blood glucose levels, stress, and toxicity, for example, can all cause this type of damage to the arteries.

In response to this the body might need to make more cholesterol, which it sends to the cells that need it via LDLs. LDLs might even be required in greater numbers in order to perform this function more efficiently — but this is the effect of the problem and not the cause.

Suggesting that LDLs cause heart disease is like blaming traffic police at the scene of a motor vehicle accident.

Yes, the police are there, but to clear up the incident, not because they caused it.

A large study published in the American Heart Journal in 2009 found that the level of so-called bad cholesterol is actually lower in people with heart disease, not higher. The study included around 137,000 people from hospitals in the United States who had been admitted to the hospital with heart disease. The researchers found that the average LDL level for this group (104 mg/dL (2.7 mmol/L) was actually lower than the average level for the American general population (123 mg/dL [3.3 mmol/L]). In addition, people admitted to the hospital after a heart attack with lower levels of LDLs also have a higher risk of dying within the first thirty days and also in the next three years. And, in general, people live longer with higher cholesterol levels.

Although statins do lower cholesterol, we’ve now seen how lowering cholesterol is not always beneficial for the body. Statins do have an anti-inflammatory effect, and that they could help improve iron metabolism and potentially help stabilize plaques within arteries.

In reality, statins’ benefits have been exaggerated, the significant side effects have been downplayed, and there are very few people for whom statins are appropriate.

The most common side effects of cholesterol-lowering statins are, perhaps unsurprisingly, directly related to the parts of the body that we know require more cholesterol. The brain and nervous system, immune system, eyes, and cellular membranes all require large amounts of cholesterol in order to function properly. In addition, cholesterol is the raw material for the production of all of the steroidal hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids for digestion. Therefore, when the production of cholesterol is blocked by a statin, these systems, organs, and processes often suffer first.

Statins block an enzyme near the top of this tree, which effectively also blocks the downstream biochemical reactions, including the normal production of a wide range of biochemicals. One of the blocked substances is coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which has a profound effect on the body, especially the proper functioning of the heart.

There are many branches on this pathway:

Think of it as a tree and you’re cutting it off at the trunk: All of the branches will be affected.

So if you take a statin and you decrease cholesterol levels, let’s say by 40 or even 50 percent, which they’re capable of doing, you’re going to have a 40 or 50 percent reduction in CoQ10. It’s not avoidable.

Cholesterol is vital for the development and function of the brain. It is therefore not surprising that mental and neurological complaints have often been observed when cholesterol levels are reduced. One study, for example, found that the use of statins was associated with manifestations of severe irritability, homicidal impulses, threats to others, road rage, fear of family members, and damage to property. In each case the personality disruption was sustained until the statin was stopped.

Studies have shown that statins can also cause erectile dysfunction and a reduction in libido. Statins block the production of all of the sex hormones.

All statin drugs have been associated with diseases of the muscles. The most common adverse effects reported are general muscle pain or weakness. Muscle pain and fatigue often go undetected and are often wrongly assumed to be age-related. Muscle problems become worse the higher the statin dose. Muscle pain and weakness are often downplayed as minor adverse effects; patients are even sometimes expected to live with the pain in order to “benefit” from the statin. In reality, thousands of people have had their lives ruined by statin muscle damage.

It is now widely acknowledged that statins cause type 2 diabetes, as acknowledged by the US FDA.

The lens of the eye requires a large amount of cholesterol. Cholesterol-lowering statins increase the risk for cataracts. It is sometimes severe enough to warrant surgery.

Atherosclerosis is a hardening and narrowing of the arteries, a process that involves calcification. Statins increase the calcification of the arteries. A study found that statin use is associated with an increased number and extent of calcified coronary plaques, which is ironic for a drug that is marketed to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Pharmaceutical companies are a business just like any other, and the people who work for these companies naturally want to increase profitability. Shareholders also want to see a return on their investment. These companies, of course, want to sell more drugs every year, and they have been very successful in doing so. They do this by including increasing marketing efforts to get more people to take existing drugs, and creating new diseases by lowering the threshold for the definition of high blood pressure and high cholesterol: basically, converting healthy people into patients. Some researchers describe such activities as disease mongering,

The “invisible and unregulated attempts to change public perceptions about health and illness in order to widen markets for new drugs.”

In recent years, almost all of the major drug companies now spend more on marketing activities than on research to find new treatments. The majority of the expenditures on sales and marketing are directed not at consumers but at health professionals.

About $24 billion is spent each year on marketing drug products to health care professionals, and it has been estimated that 99% of doctors use information provided by pharmaceutical companies in their clinical practice.

They give you something to measure in numbers, like HDLs and LDLs, and they give you the medicines to immediately and forcibly drive down the numbers, like statins. But this make-believe “magic button” effect is really not that “magic” for us “patients”, or most common people.

Don’t be superstitious about the numbers and the magic-button effect. Don’t be misled. Health is yours and life is yours. You should be more informed, and be more prepared. Doctors rely on devices and chemical medicines. You must rely on yourself and know your conditions inside out — details like how you feel every day no one can tell but yourself.

You must maintain your independence in nowadays “industrialized” healthcare.

After all, all lives are precious and should be respected, foremost of all including yours.

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