A friend of mine “Brad” (not his real name) paid me a visit recently. As soon as he got inside the door, he thrust out his hand which was holding a smallish capped white plastic bottle.
“You see?” he demanded more than asked. “You see what they sent me?”
“They” were Brad’s doctor and mail-order pharmaceutical company. The white bottle was filled with a 90-day supply of a cholesterol-lowering statin called Atorvastatin (a TOR va sta tin) in the 20 mg dose. This drug is also sold under the brand name Lipitor.
At a health treatment follow-up visit the week before, Brad said his doctor had recommended taking statins to bring down his high cholesterol number. Brad had politely declined, explaining that a higher-than-average cholesterol level is expected in people like him who follow a high protein/fat and low carb regime.
Furthermore, Brad’s good HDL cholesterol and natural triglycerides were above normal limits with an uppermost borderline bad LDL count. Brad cares about his heart health but isn’t convinced that cholesterol is a leading indicator rather than a side effect of inflammation.
“I won’t take them,” Brad said about the unwanted mail-order pills.
Brad, his doctor, and I also know that 50-something Brad is recovering, slowly but surely, from a near-fatal car crash five years ago. With several pins surgically implanted to hold his shredded spine together, Brad has a limited range of motion.
When it comes to exercise, Brad is stepping up to the challenge. He gets up 15 minutes earlier before work to walk on an ancient treadmill he’s had for years but still works fine for walking and running in place. This is a huge milestone in Brad’s long-term recuperation with every reason to expect more physical improvements coming.
Brad has also been losing weight at a safe rate. Despite his daily aches and pains, he remains positive about his situation. He has a good job, a comfortable home, and friends who love and support him.
After Brad’s scheduled office appearance, his doctor went ahead and made another appointment – without his patient’s knowledge or consent – to have his cholesterol checked again. When the testing facility called to confirm the appointment Brad had not made, my friend again politely declined.
The final straw, as Brad saw it (and the reason he rang my doorbell) was getting a sealed white envelope in the mail. Upon opening it, he beheld the very medication he had told his doctor he didn’t want and wouldn’t take.
Statins lower cholesterol by reducing lipids (fats) in the blood – and some people swear by them. In a comment to an article I wrote previously about statins, Colleen Phillips kindly shared her positive experience:
“Before statins, no one on either side of my family lived beyond their mid-60s. Now, they are living into their 80s. Currently, I am several years older than my parents were when they suffered their first heart attacks and strokes. I am, however, healthy and enjoy hiking, kayaking, and having fun running, climbing with my grandkids at the playground. My cholesterol without statins: 360. With statins: 180-200. Statins lower my LDL from high to normal levels. I’ve been taking statins for 21 years now, with no side effects.”
For the record, the two other commenters on the same statins article were negative about what they and their families were going through after years of treatment with severe health complications.
One attributed “muscle and joint pains, memory issues, can’t sleep, flu-like symptoms, rashes, sores in my mouth, fatigue, high blood pressure, tingling/numbness in feet and hands, borderline diabetic, and other terrible illnesses” to statin use for over 30 years.
The other described “loss of appetite and about 10 pounds in a few weeks; jaundice, extremely high liver enzymes and high bilirubin; needed a liver biopsy while docs were trying to figure out what was causing my condition (ruled out pancreatic cancer, auto-immune, cirrhosis…). Scary. Ok now, and glad I stopped taking the statin immediately when I experienced the symptoms.”
Researchers say that 5-10 percent of patients will experience statin-related myopathy a muscle-weakening disease where the muscle fibers fail to work normally. It is one of several SAMS (Statin-Associated Muscle Symptoms), which also include myalgia (aching, stiffness, and cramps), and myositis (inflammation).
The 2018 cholesterol management guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) made the following food nutrition recommendations, taken from the 2013 AHA/ACC (American College of Cardiology) guidelines on lifestyle management:
“Patients should consume a dietary pattern that emphasizes intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, healthy protein sources (low-fat dairy products, low-fat poultry (without the skin), fish/seafood, and nuts), and nontropical vegetable oils; and limits intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats.”
But wait, there’s more. Don’t forget the physical activities:
“In general, adults should be advised to engage in aerobic physical activity 3-4 sessions per week, lasting on average 40 minutes per session and involving moderate-to vigorous-intensity physical activity.”
The bottom line here is that there is no downside to eating a more nutritious diet and exercising regularly.
While statins may be suitable for your good health be sure you understand the benefits and risks of this controversial treatment that is being pushed by Big Pharma interests through your doctor’s office.