Statins Don't Save Lives in People without Heart Disease | Chris Kresser

The Diet–Heart Myth: Statins Don’t Save Lives in People without Heart Disease


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A man taking statins
Statins aren’t as effective as conventional medicine makes them out to be. Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

To read more about heart disease and cholesterol, check out this eBook on the Diet–Heart Myth.

Cardiovascular disease is one of the most misdiagnosed and mistreated conditions in medicine. In the first article in this series, I explained the evidence suggesting that eating cholesterol and saturated fat does not hurt your heart health or increase the risk of heart disease. In the second article, I explained it’s not the amount of cholesterol in your blood that drives heart disease risk, but the number of LDL particles. In the third article, I discussed the five primary causes of elevated LDL particle number.

In this article, I will debunk the myth that statin drugs save lives in healthy people without heart disease, and discuss some of the little known side effects and risks associated with these drugs.

Myth #3: Statins Save Lives in Healthy People without Heart Disease

Statins have been hailed by many in the conventional medical establishment as wonder drugs, with some physicians going as far as suggesting they should be added to the water supply. (The doctor that made that particular suggestion is named John RecklessI kid you not.) But are statins really the wonder drugs they’ve been made out to be?

Are statins really the miracle drug they’ve been made out to be? Check out this article to find out more about these popular drugs. #healthylifestyle #chriskresser

Before we dive into the statistics on statins, I need to briefly explain the difference between relative and absolute risk reduction. Researchers and pharmaceutical companies often use relative risk statistics to report the results of drug studies. For example, they might say, “In this trial, statins reduced the risk of a heart attack by 30 percent.” But what they may not tell you is that the actual risk of having a heart attack went from 0.5 percent to 0.35 percent. In other words, before you took the drug you had a 1 in 200 chance of having a heart attack; after taking the drug you have a 1 in 285 chance of having a heart attack. That’s not nearly as impressive as using the 30 percent relative risk number, but it provides a more accurate picture of what the actual, or “absolute” risk reduction is.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the efficacy of statins in two broad groups of people:

  • Those with pre-existing heart disease
  • Those without pre-existing heart disease

In the medical literature, these groups are referred to as “secondary prevention” and “primary prevention,” respectively.

Secondary Prevention (Those with Pre-Existing Heart Disease)

There’s little doubt that statins are effective in reducing heart attacks and deaths from heart disease in people who already have heart disease.

Several large controlled trials including 4S, CARE, LIPID, HPS, TNT, MIRACL, PROV-IT, and A to Z have shown relative risk reductions between 7 percent on the low end in MIRACL and 32 percent on the high end in 4S, with an average risk reduction of about 20 percent.

However, absolute risk reductions are much more modest. They range from 0.8 percent in MIRACL on the low end to 9 percent in 4S on the high end, with an average of 3 percent.

An analysis by Dr. David Newman in 2010 which drew on large meta-analyses of statins found that among those with pre-existing heart disease that took statins for 5 years: (1)

  • 96 percent saw no benefit at all
  • 1.2 percent (1 in 83) had their lifespan extended (were saved from a fatal heart attack)
  • 2.6 percent (1 in 39) were helped by preventing a repeat heart attack
  • 0.8 percent (1 in 125) were helped by preventing a stroke
  • 0.6 percent (1 in 167) were harmed by developing diabetes
  • 10 percent (1 in 10) were harmed by muscle damage
A heart attack or stroke can have a significant negative impact on quality of life, so any intervention that can decrease the risk of such an event should be given serious consideration. But even in the population for which statins are most effective—those with pre-existing heart disease—83 people have to be treated to extend one life, and 39 people have to be treated to prevent a repeat heart attack.

Moreover, these results do not apply to all populations across the board. Most studies have shown that while statins do reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) events and deaths from CVD in women, they do not reduce the risk of death from all causes (“total mortality”). (2)

Nor do these results apply to men or women over the age of 80. Statins do reduce the risk of heart attack and other CVD events in men over the age of 80, and especially at this age, these events can have a significant negative impact on quality of life. However, the bulk of the evidence suggests that statins don’t extend life in people over 80 years of age, regardless of whether they have heart disease, and the highest death rates in people over 80 are associated with the lowest cholesterol levels. (3, 4)

Primary Prevention (Those without Pre-Existing Heart Disease)

Statins do reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in people without pre-existing heart disease. However, this effect is more modest than most people assume. Dr. Newman also analyzed the effect of statins given to people with no known heart disease for 5 years: (5)

  • 98 percent saw no benefit at all
  • 1.6 percent (1 in 60) were helped by preventing a heart attack
  • 0.4 percent (1 in 268) were helped by preventing a stroke
  • 1.5 percent (1 in 67) were harmed by developing diabetes
  • 10 percent (1 in 10) were harmed by muscle damage

These statistics present a more sobering view on the efficacy of statins in people without pre-existing heart disease. They suggest that you’d need to treat 60 people for 5 years to prevent a single heart attack, or 268 people for 5 years to prevent a single stroke. These somewhat unimpressive benefits must also be weighed against the downsides of therapy, such as side effects and cost.

During that hypothetical 5-year period, 1 in 67 patients would have developed diabetes and 1 in 10 patients would have developed muscle damage (which can be permanent in some cases, as we’ll see later in this section).

In addition, while statins do moderately reduce cardiovascular events such as heart attack in people without heart disease, they’ve never been shown to extend lifespan in this population. This is true even when the risk of heart disease is high. In a large meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials by Kausik Ray, MD, and colleagues published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, statins were not associated with a significant reduction in the risk of death from all causes. (6)

This trial included 65,000 people without pre-existing heart disease but with intermediate to high risk of heart disease. It was important because it was the first review that only included participants without known heart disease. Previous studies suggesting that statins are effective in reducing death in people without pre-existing heart disease included some people that did have heart disease, which would have skewed the results.

The lack of significant effect on mortality is even more interesting in light of the fact that LDL cholesterol levels did decrease significantly in the statin group; the average LDL level in those taking placebo was 134 mg/dL and the average in the statin-treated patients was 94 mg/dL—roughly 30 percent lower. Yet in spite of this marked reduction in LDL cholesterol in the statin group, there was no difference in lifespan between the two groups. This is yet another line of evidence suggesting that the amount of cholesterol in LDL particles is not the driving factor in heart disease.

A meta-analysis of statin trials in people without heart disease by the prestigious Cochrane Collaboration came to a similar conclusion. (7) They also observed that all but one of the clinical trials providing evidence on this issue were sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. This is a reason to remain skeptical, because research clearly indicates that industry-sponsored trials are more likely than non-industry-sponsored trials to report favorable results for drugs because of biased reporting, biased interpretation, or both. (8)

Adverse Effects of Statins

If statins were harmless and free, then it wouldn’t matter how many people need to be treated to prevent a heart attack or extend someone’s lifespan. But statins are not free, nor are they harmless. Statin use has been associated with a wide range of side effects, including:

  • Myopathy (muscle pain)
  • Liver damage
  • Cataracts
  • Kidney failure
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Impotence
  • Diabetes

Unfortunately, studies show that physicians are more likely to deny than affirm the possibility of statin side effects, even for symptoms with strong evidence in the scientific literature. (9) Assuming that physicians would likely not report the adverse reaction in these circumstances, it’s probable that the incidence of statin side effects is much higher than the reported rates.

One of the most troubling side effects of statins is their potential to increase the risk of diabetes, especially in women. A study by Dr. Naveed Sattar and colleagues published in The Lancet in 2010 examined 13 randomized clinical trials involving over 90,000 patients taking statins. They found that statin use was associated with a 9 percent increased risk in developing diabetes. Note that this is a relative risk, so the absolute risk of developing diabetes while taking a statin is very low. That said, observational data from the Women’s Health Initiative found a 48 percent increased risk of diabetes in healthy women taking statins after adjusting for other risk factors. (10)

What’s more, a 2019 study found a 38 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes in patients who took statins over a 15-year period. (11) The study also showed:

  • Even people on low doses of statins were at increased risk of developing diabetes
  • The increase in risk was significantly higher in those who were overweight or obese
  • Patients’ risk of diabetes climbed higher the longer they took statins

To summarize:

  • The only population that statins extend life in are men under 80 years of age with pre-existing heart disease.
  • In men under 80 without pre-existing heart disease, men over 80 with or without heart disease, and women of any age with or without heart disease, statins have not been shown to extend lifespan.
  • Statins do reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in all populations. A heart attack or stroke can have a significant, negative impact on quality of life—particularly in the elderly—so this benefit should not be discounted.
  • However, the reductions in cardiovascular events are often more modest than most assume; 60 people with high cholesterol but no heart disease would need to be treated for 5 years to prevent a single heart attack, and 268 people would need to be treated for 5 years to prevent a single stroke.
  • Statins have been shown to cause a number of side effects, such as muscle pain and cognitive problems, and they are probably more common than currently estimated due to under-reporting.

My intention here is not to suggest that statins have no place in the treatment of heart disease, but rather to give you the objective information you need to decide (along with your doctor) whether they are appropriate for you. The decision whether to take them should be based on whether you have pre-existing heart disease, what your overall risk of a heart attack is, how healthy your diet and lifestyle are, what other treatments youve already tried, and your own risk tolerance and worldview. Its clear that statins reduce heart disease as well as the risk of death in those that have already had a heart attack, so if you’re in this group and youve already tried diet and lifestyle interventions without much impact on your lipid or inflammatory markers, you are more likely to benefit.

In the next and final article of this series, I’ll discuss three steps to preventing and reversing heart disease naturally, without drugs.

Do you—or does someone you know—take statins? Have you noticed any of the adverse side effects listed above? Comment below and share your experience.


Join the conversation

  1. Firstly , thanks for posting the real statistics. We should create a national service to present “best data” on this type, eg actual risk of stroke and all-cause-mortality as function of blood pressure, and ACTUAL reduction in these risks from medically treated HTN, as function of blood pressure. I think many patients would be shocked at how little their life is likely to be prolonged, even in this so well established bulwark of medicine.

    Many people have elevated LDL-P (at least according to the Quest or Health Diagnostics “normal range”) but without signs of metabolic syndrome, prediabetes or low thyroid. Sometimes the LDL-P is high when the basic lipid panel is seemingly not that risky (good HDL/TRY ratio). Sometimes they are seemingly healthy in most other ways and I am left to interpret their theoretical risk from this known risk factor of LDL-P. The pressure from the medical system has at times made it feel like malpractice not to do something to “bring the number down”, which often means statins. I have used very low doses to effectively do this, but still doubt if this is really doing anyone a favor. Perhaps these people all have subclinical infectious irritation (SIBO or whatever). In that case, maybe the high LDL is protective and confers no risk at all for heart disease. Certainly I have a few older female patients who had chronic high LDL and LDL-P with family history even, but no other risk factors I could see, where I tested them up and down for evidence of vascular disease (they were concerned with being a walking time bomb) and found NONE – no carotid plaque, zero plaque scores on coronary CT, and perfectly normal stress ECHO. I told them to never test lipids again and forget about it.

  2. My doctors place a lot of weight in high LDL calc reading. Since the LDL is based on a formula that subtracts triglycerides thus lowering LDL . Makes no sense to me since high triglyceride readings are not good.. Please explain.

  3. 66 yr old female uk. Cholesterol 7 and on high blood pressure pills. Slightly overweight, very fit and healthy (hbp aside) and resisted statins until two years ago when my husband died in Papworth. Despite NO FAMILY HISTORY OF HEART DISEASE on my side, all those sorry patients scared me, I capitulated and my GP put me on 40 Pravastatin!!!! I haven’t slept well since, having to get up many times in night to wee. Thinking of coming off them and to hell with the ‘threatened’ consequences from GP. I am so confused. Love the blog, Chris.

    • Fix it all yourself by a good diet, go whole food plant based diet for a few months, you’d be amazed. No junk food, no processed food. Give yourself the chance you deserve.

    • Hi Twinkle 57, whilst i represent my own product, i wish it to be known that I am wholeheartedly against statin use, as cholesterol can be controlled through natural whole grain foods, with positive benefits not negative side effects. This is due to the natural phyto nutrients present in these whole foods – both oil and solids, which have been proven to reduce cholesterol absorption and to also provide additonal anti oxidant support. We have witnessed these natural cholesterol management and other NCD benefits amongst our users here in Thailand and Australia.
      Read about our cold pressed whole grain essential products for yourself. We will soon be launching in the UK. In the interim, I would advise you to take Jackie Thomas advice.

  4. Hi Doc, well all of this sounds just right and dandy but I find not a SINGLE, not ONE medical professional who is interested in our dilemma. My family has HeFH (the single mutation) – my mother (and all other women with it in our family) is fine -she’s 83. no heart problems. BUT MY SONS! one is 34 and has just had quintuple bypass. NO-ONE wants to address our diet – I am on LCHF and it worked for me – halved my numbers but my sons are dead afraid of it! and I think I’m the only one in the entire world who took the plunge and it worked for me. No-one is interested in our malady. So we take those darned pills and become incredibly ill on them – in fact, EYE think we could die on them, but no-one talks to us. The cardiologist sent my son a prescription for 80 mg (that’s EIGHTY) mg’s CRESTOR and out of fear he took only 40 and got so ill (kidneys) that he needed urgent help. So for us there is NOTHING.

    • CLOE7 I AM A PHYSICIAN, ANESTHESIOLOGIST, AND YOUR PLIGHT TUGGED AT MY HEART STRINGS. THERE IS AN ALTERNAT SUPPLEMENT THAT WILL DO NO HARM AND WILL ADDRESS YOUR CONCERN. IT IS A SUPPLEMENT CALLED INORGANIC POTASSIUM NITRATE THAT IS KNO3 THAT DEGRADES IN THE BODY TO NITRIC OXIDE, NO THAT IS A MESSENGER MOLECULE THAT CAUSES THE SMALL ARTERIES TO DILATE AND PERFUSE THE SMALL ARTERIOLS SUCH AS ARE FOUND IN THE HEART. IT IS DIRT CHEAP AS KNO3 IS FERTILIZER. YOU CAN GET 250 MG CAPSULES FROM NUTRIGUARD FOR $12 for 360 Capsules -the dose is 3 or 4/day depending on your size. look up jon lundberg’s work on inorganic nitrate in health and disease-his work was done at the karolinska in stockholm. the internet is full of the benefits of inorganic nitric oxide–the active substance in the dash diet of leafy vegetables. best of luck. g. best, md- scottsdale ,az.

  5. I’m a 30-year Type I diabetic, 68 years old, yet my coronary artery calcium score by EBCT is zero – doc and I both baffled. Why? In ’84 I got rid of CFS with Cathcart’s bowel tolerance vitamin C – initially 140 grams per day for 3 weeks – never stopped taking 1-4 grams per day for fear of a relapse. In ’96 I learned of Pauling’s therapy for heart disease and realized I’d been on it for many years before he invented it. I’m convinced it works – I wonder how many of you think I’m deluded?

    • Very interesting. Whenever I have tried to take vitamin C supplements, I seem to get a cold or flu. Not sure what’s going on there….. Glad to hear it’s working for you. Does Dr. Cathcart have his own brand of vitamin C you can buy online?

      I believe Dr. Cathcart is deceased. He died at the age of 75. Do you happen to know his cause of death?

      • Wow Mark that’s the opposite of my experience, I used to get 3 bout of bronchitis per year but with C I’ve had one in the last ten years.

        Tower Laboratories sells a Pauling therapy mix but I take plain old vitamin C from Rite Aid – Cathcart died of bladder cancer – Pauling died at 93 of prostate cancer I believe but both went how I want to go, late in life after a brief illness!

        • Thanks for the quick Reply Jonathan. Maybe I will try the vitamin C again. It could have been just coincidental I got sick when I was taking it. I used to get a bout of bronchitis every winter, similar to you, but have not had it for awhile now. I supplement with cod liver oil and vitamin D, along with magnesium and B-complex. The doctor said my vitamin D blood level was low. That’s why I started supplementing. The cod liver oil I take has vitamin D in it as well.

          • It is possible that NAC (N-acetylcysteine) might help keep the lungs clear.

            I have used that for over a year myself. The prescription medicine worked to a point but was not clearing completely. Doctor wanted me on a steroid inhaler.. I chose NAC instead and am glad I did.
            If you do take NAC and experience any side effects, please just stop taking it. I have had no problems myself.

            And getting Vitamin D levels up will probably assist as well.

            • Mary, I think your best option is to see a licensed nutritionist and to get a complete nutrient panel performed. There might be other nutrients that will help your condition. Best of luck!

            • Mary I forgot to mention that I have been taking a nonprescription form of NAC and I have not had any side effects from it. Your nutritionist can refer you to a high quality form of NAC.

          • Mark, you might have another nutrient deficiency other than vitamin . I now go to a nutritionist who has me tested for 30 different nutrients needed for good overall health. All of my vitamin levels were good but I was low in COQ10, Glutamine, Glutathione, Serine and antioxidants. I have been taking supplements for more than 1 year and was retested. Only the Serine levels are still low. I used a company called Spectracell but I am sure there are others that can perform the blood analysis. Best of luck!

  6. Chris,

    Please see the website for Dr. Duane Graveline, former Astronaut and Flight Surgeon with NASA amongst other accomplishments.
    spacedoc DOT net

    Dr. Graveline hosts a most comprehensive resource for the Statin health issues. He came upon this by self administering Lipitor and experiencing Transient Global Amnesia as a result. He has written 3 books detailing the negative health impact of statins. Research has indicated that use of statins creates a change in the Tau protiens within the brain which mimics brain tissue found in Alzheimer patients who allow the research of their brain tissue upon death. Statins are big pharma’s ideal rainmaker as so many of us have been brainwashed into believing that high cholesterol is automatically a death warrant and the leading cause of heart attack. The fact of the matter is that cholesterol is one of the key substances for brain tissue health. Those who have performed non biased studies on the proper use of statins state that only about 5% of men should actually be prescribed statins and that 0% of women should be prescribed statins.
    Thank you for spreading the word about the statin myth.

  7. I posted here before. Again, I was diagnosed last year with 20-39% left carotid artery blockage (otherwise healthy). I had my 6 month follow up carotid ultrasound just the other day, and more specifically, my blockage was 29% (instead of a range). My doctor started me on 5mg Crestor (daily) six months ago, and he says that the 29% is a good number. He thinks that the Crestor either halted or slightly reversed my carotid plaque, and he keeps mentioning how Crestor “melts away” cholesterol and plaque, providing my diet and exercise is good! He actually wanted to up my dose to 10mg daily, and basically I said “please, NO!” So he said I can continue the 5mg dose for now, but if the Crestor is to (again he uses this magical phrase!) “melt away” more of my plaque, I have to lose more weight, eat more salmon (fish oils), and cut down my carbs and sugar intake. The only reason I take the Crestor is because of my actual diagnosed heart disease (homogenous, stable carotid plaque). At first, I had a few muscle aches, but I am now tolerating the statin very well. I don’t know if my 29% left carotid blockage is indeed an improvement over my numbers 6 months ago, but I have a feeling that the Crestor actually helped me! Of course, I just hope that this statin isn’t doing any OTHER harm to my body! Comments welcome.

    • Ellinas Ohio,

      I believe we have to be careful about completely considering statin therapy as a “bad” thing. My cholesterol numbers improved after starting on Lipitor. Weight loss and a fairly strict diet would not get my bad cholesterol numbers down. So that’s the reason I chose to go on the statin. Just my opinion. Everyone has to do what they feel is best for them, hopefully with the helpful advice of a good doctor.

    • well, it’s not gonna be the Crestor that “melts” the stuff away, it’ll be the good diet and exercise. Lose some weight, get off junk food, no processed food, and that’s bread too, no sugar, and you’ll get off the Crestor and everything else. I know it can be difficult, but so is heart attacks, having your heart cracked, etc. Luck. Oh, yes, I do practice what I preach.

  8. The benefits of statins grow less as newer studies come out. The only study to go 15 years, the PROSPER study (PLOSone, Sept 2013) showed reduction of heart attacks but no life benefit! This included secondary prevention patients! In fact more people died in the active group 42.5% than in the control group 42.4% (not statistically significant but still on the wrong side for “benefit”). So if there really is a life benefit in statins then it is only in short term use in secondary prevention. We don’t know if the short term use (less than 5 years) still results in longer term worse mortality (over 15 years) as no drug company will do the study in view of the results out so far. Then in JAMA 23 October 2013 we see that statins in intensive care increased mortality 21.2% vs 15.2% in control group. That study was stopped early otherwise the mortality would have been statistically significant – meaning that the drug companies would have had to actually address the increase in mortality issue. Remember drug companies are more interested in your money than your health.
    Then there is the prospective population-based study that showed people with the highest cholesterol lived the longest (Honolulu Heart study: Lancet 4 August 2001) while those with the lowest cholesterol (including those on statins) died soonest. That was despite accounting for heart disease for those on statins in the analysis.
    For heart health nothing beats smoking cessation, a healthy diet (closer to natural the better, the more processed the worse), and aerobic exercise.
    To your good health and evidence-based medicine.

  9. Hi, my husbands doctor recommended statins to my husband today (a former addict – pain med’s), because he has super high cholesterol and is a smoker (he has not been able to quit smoking, although he has been able to reduce the amount he smokes every day). Are Statins really the first best choice, if life style changes such as stopping to smoke, exercise, diet etc. are just not achievable at the present time (hope he just needs to get his extremely low iron levels, Vit. D up first).

  10. Hi,
    I know this is an older thread but hoping for some advice. I’m 48, in good health. I’m a primal/paleo eater, have been for 3years. My weight is excellent, non smoker. Had a physical this week and all numbers were great with the exception of my LDL. Here are my numbers: Total 258, LDL 167(last yr 190), HDL, 85, Triglycerides 28. Doc wants to put me on statins because my dad had heart disease and had his first heart attack at 55 BUT he was a chain smoker, his diet consisted of Oreos and Pepsi and he was a prominent defense lawyer defending criminals, worked excessive hours. She said under the new guidelines, those numbers would be ok but because of my father and the fact that I already do everything right (nothing to improve on) she thinks I should go on Lipitor. I’m a firm believer that big pharma does not have our best interests at heart. I don’t want to be a ticking time bomb but don’t want to go on something that may hurt me in the long run. So my question is because my dad made horrible choices, I’m doomed too and i now i have to go on a drug for life? PS: dad had a 2nd heart attack 7 ys later, after his first and after improving his lifestyle. He is still alive at 78. Any words of wisdom would be appreciated.

    • My dad managed to hang on until he was about 75. He had 3 heart attacks, 2 of which he survived, 2 bypass surgeries. He was a terrible smoker, a non-exerciser, and bad eater. Few veggies, fruits, a lot of meat, sat. fats, scads of sugar in his coffee. I totally ignore his background for any relevance to my “genes” or health predictability. Likewise, my mom died from cigarette cancer, and ignore her cancer in my health predictability, since I don’t smoke, exercise, and eat pretty healthy. It just doesn’t count. My grandparents, on the other hand, did none of the above, and lived long, healthy lives.

    • well, you know, you have a choice in this. My dad also was a heavy smoker, bad food, no exercise, everything against good health. My mom also was a heavy smoker, no exercise, etc. Dad had 2 heart attacks, 2 bypasses, died from clogged artery. Mom died earlier from “body” cancer, caused from lung cancer. I discount both of them from my family history in health. I figure that illnesses in people are caused by lifestyle as much or more than genes. My good lifestyle counters their lifestyle, which was passed to me, but which I “threw off”. Instead, I look to my grandparents, who did not smoke, etc. and lived long lives. Just my thoughts.

    • Hey Lynne, just saw your comment. 2 things to take into consideration:

      1) If your LDL is higher than expected, it would be very beneficial to determine the size of the cholesterol particles. An anti-inflammatory diet such as the Paleo diet will cause LDL particles to change from small, sticky bits that cause problems in the body to large, fluffy floating particles that are not dangerous and actually required by our systems. So if your LDL particle size is large, then you don’t need to worry about it.

      2) Since LDL is determined as a ratio based on Total Cholestorl and HDL, if your HDL increases (a good thing), then your LDL ratio will go up as well. Any chance you can research a bit more? There are so many good functional physicians and naturopaths online (Chris obviously but also etc) that would allow you to educate yourself further rather than having to trust your doctor blindly.

      Cheers, Marion

      • Marion,

        I’m 62, and my father and all his brothers died at age 69 from heart attacks. They were smokers, drank, were very thin and did not exercise. I have the MTH fr c677t Gene mutation (homozygous two copies) which predisposes you to coronary artery disease. My 19 yr old also inherited the mutation unfortunately, it doesn’t mean you definitely will have heart problems, but you may…

        My carotid u/s shows up to 50% blockage (it used to be about 39% and was in only one artery and now it is in both) and my cardiologist scared me to death. He said that I have to be on statins because if I don’t, the plaque will break off and I will have a stroke. He told me the opposite of what you said. I have the harder particles, and he said it’s the soft fluffy ones that can break off, amd the harder ones are more stable. I said that doesn’t make sense, but he doesn’t like to be told anything.

        My dr years ago tested for the MTH FR Gene and when I brought to the cardiologist’s attention, he said why in he** would he be testing you for that? I said it is very important because someone who has that Gene can’t detox and must take methy B12 and methyl folate. My daughter and I both have Lyme so detox is key.

        I told him I couldn’t bear the muscle pain that could occur with statins because I can barely walk as it is due to jt pain, and that my endocrinologist said that statins can cause diabetes in post menopausal women. He literally screamed “so what if you get diabetes? Guess what? Everyone with diabetes has to be on a statin!” My hemoglobin A1C that determines pre-disposition for diabetes is right at 5.7 and the norm is <5.7, so I'm very concerned. Also in our family, we have a history of FMD (fibro muscular dysplasia – narrowing of the arteries on their own). I have one cousin with a tiny aneurysm and another just had a stage 5 (the worst) aneurysm and survived even though it took over 9 hrs to get her help.its truly a Miracle.

        Bottom line, I'm now petrified bec this dr said if my carotids are blocked, that means my heart and peripheral arteries are blocked. I have a renal u/s yearly but not one dr or hospital can figur out if it is completely blocked or just tortuous..I've had an MRA and the only way they can definitively tell what it is is a CTA and I am allergic to the die, so no can do. My BP is controlled but of late my eating habits have deteriorated out of severe stress. I'm 35 lbs heavier than Id like to be (I was never over 103) and I have not been exercising due to the pain, and workimg on appeals with the insurance co. to get my daughters IV meds paid for. (She has encephalopathy of the brain)..I've got other equally stressful events going on (separation, foreclosure) as well.

        I take a huge amount of heart supplements (CoQ10, VitD3/K2 (you must take K2 in order for D3 to work), l-Carnitine, fish oil, benecol chews (to reduce cholesterol – my has gone up since I had my gall bladder out in April) and several others, but my cholesterol is 217 (LDL 137). Everything else looks good (homocysteine, hs-crp, C-reactive protein). My hdl is only 60.

        It is such a difficult decision to make…I don't want to go on statins! Any suggestions on diet that might help?


    • Lynn I would not jump on the statin band wagon until seeing a licensed nutritionist. There are other way s to reduce LDL. I have noticed that the drug companies sponsor most if not all research on medications. 15 years ago your cholesterol was not high until your LDL reached 250 – 300. Now because my blood pressure is above what the drug companies RECOMMEND my GP said my LDL should be under 100. I followed his bad advice and when my LDL hit 36 I needed a new pacemaker…the first was implanted 1 year before. If you do take a statin you must get a nutrition panel performed to track deficiencies caused by the statins. Statins STOP the liver from producing COQ10. That is what caused my total heart block. At least know what supplements you need to take and then get tested to make sure they do not go below a healthy level. I get my blood panel performed by a company in Texas called Spectracell. Maybe your nutritionist can have the work done locally.Best wishes!

  11. My Father got put on statins and I flipped out. Made him go on an 16/8 intermittent fasting diet instead. 2 months later his numbers were perfect and no statins required. I’m 45 and my numbers are perfect on 16/8, my GP was even bewildered saying I am getting numbers a fit 16yr old would have.

  12. Any hints on how to find a doctor that doesn’t push statins? A list maybe? I’ve had long conversations with my internist about all of the nasty side effects I had while on them and he STILL tries to get me back on them almost every time I see him. Plus, since I’m turning 60, I thought it might be time to find a cardiologist, but am not looking forward to the series of arguments I’m going to have to have before I find one who will listen to me instead of what happened the one time I met with one. He outright told me that, if I wouldn’t help myself, he couldn’t help me! Any suggestions?

    • Sue, I feel 100% the same as you do. Plus a friendly cardiologist will also be nice, but he HAS to firstly support my high fat diet. They don’t exist!

      • Good luck finding a cardiologist who does not push statins. I have been on Lipitor for 15 years. I am 59 years old and have been seeing a cardiologist since I was 44 because I had my first event of atrial fibrillation when I was 38. I’ve had two catheter ablation surgeries for atrial tachycardia and the atrial fibrillation within the last 4 years which seems to have helped those heart rhythm irregularities. When I was in my 40’s I had tried to get my cholesterol down with diet. The only kind of diet I can lose weight on is low carb. Exercise seems to be good for my overall health, but it does basically nothing for me as far as weight loss. Even the low carb diet does not seem to have a major benefit in reducing my cholesterol. I have somewhat of a family history of high cholesterol. I finally relented in 1999 at the age of 44, on the advice of a cardiologist, to go on Lipitor. I was amazed at how it lowered my cholesterol, even when eating fatty foods. I thought, “Wow this is great”. I have had some muscle cramping over the years that I was concerned may be caused by the Lipitor. I told my cardiologist about it and he attributed it to something else, not the statin. Also, when my cholesterol started becoming more elevated, my cardiologist increased my Lipitor dose from 10 mg to 20 mg. I have been on 20 mg for about 7 years. I was diagnosed with cataracts about 5 years ago and I’m thinking the statin may have caused that.

        After reading this article, I’m concerned about the long term effects of the Lipitor. I supplement with 100 mg of CoQ10 twice daily, magnesium, cod liver oil, vitamin B complex and vitamin D3. I think that has helped me avoid some of the side effects. I occasionally have muscle cramping and twitching and am concerned about that. I wanted to get my internist to check the blood levels of CoQ10, but she gave some excuse to where it was not necessary, so I’m going to an independent lab and have it checked myself. I’m also getting my CPK levels checked to determine if there is muscle damage.

        I don’t really like to think of having to go off the statin because I am quite confident my LDL cholesterol will start going up again. I need to lose about 30 pounds and exercise more. The thought of having to follow a strict regimen including a low carb diet, with vigorous exercise, trying to lose the weight, is scary for me. Weight loss is not easy for me. I believed I inherited the “fat” gene from my mother’s side of the family. My uncle weighs over 300 pounds and is diabetic. He had triple bypass surgery when he was 60 years old. So you can see why the thought of going off the statin is scary. Will wait and see what my CoQ10 and CPK blood levels look like and go from there. Does it come to the point of deciding whether to die with heart disease without the statins or die from cancer with the statins?????

        • Mark…you are asking the right questions and I am pleased that you are supplementing with COQ10 since statins STOP the liver from producing it. Unfortunately I did not know this until after the damage was done. I also supplement with glutamine, glutathione, serine, L-Acetylsystein, and antioxidants. The levels increased dramatically over 1 year’s time. My A1C has dropped a full point and as long as I avoid simple carbs my glucose levels run in the low 100’s (105-108)Keep at it. If you do not have a nutritionist you might consider one. They have a lot of good ideas other than drugs. Good luck!

    • I finally have succumbed to Lipitor 10 after a few years of no statins. It was actually this site that encouraged me to do this. I had what I call a “stress-related” MCI/one artery blockage, Angio with stent at 47. The doctors would not leave me alone so i finally got the pills and am taking Ubiqunol with them. I hope you are also encouraging patients on here to watch for loss of oxygen in their muscles when taking these drugs. We will see what my next labs are like. Coconut did work for making my good Cholesterol higher and I love it! (now 63 1/2)

      • Mary…I am glad to hear that you are taking ubiquinol. Make sure you are tested on a regular basis to make sure it is a high enough dose. Statins stop the liver from producing COQ10 so we do need a supplement. Best wishes in health.

    • Sue,
      You might consider going to a licensed nutritionist. The medical profession does not teach nutrition to doctors. They are trained to use drugs only. A good nutritionist will give you some viable alternatives. Best wishes!

  13. Great article. I would consider adding neuropathy – a highly dibilitating condition with great numbers of sufferers–as a side effect. Look up statin-induced neuropathy and you’ll see overwhelming data and studies proving cause and effect. Some of these studies are published in prominent american medical association journals. I’ve been unable to stand or walk for 7 years due to advancing neuropathy. I was treated by top Mass Gen Hospital neurologists and Harvard Medical School teaching docs but the cause of my neuropathy was not found. Then last week I came across the data implicating the statins I’ve been on. I stopped taking the statins and in only one week I can stand and walk. For me its a miracle.

  14. My mother was first prescribed Lipitor by her g.p. when she was in her early ’70s. After a few weeks my mother had tremendous pain in her legs and upper arms. My mother didn’t suffer from arthritis or any other degenerative ailments.

    Brining this problem to her doctor’s attention he took her off of the Lipitor and prescribed her Vytorin. This statin was the holy grail of BAD medicine. After only a few days on Vytorin my mother began having horrible, and I mean horrible bouts of acid reflux. It was so severe that my mother would be in tears from the abdominal cramping and acid reflux. Also, my mother could barely walk due to advanced pain in her legs.

    Another complaint to her g.p. and he say’s bluntly, “Don’t take the Vytorin anymore. You don’t need it” My mother aborted the drug and within a few days the acid reflux was gone! And after several weeks the muscle cramping subsided substantially, but there were still everlasting effects of minor muscle pain in her legs that went away after a few months.

    Years later my mother was assigned to a cardiologist. My mother was once again prescribed Lipitor. My mother was concerned since she had such a miserable experience with the drug before. Her cardiologist assured her that the pains were just “part of old age,” and that, “Lipitor is perfectly safe.” Well, after a week on Lipitor the leg cramping returned and then the bouts of indigestion resumed just like the Vytorin caused.

    I talked to her cardiologist about how adversely it was effecting my mother. All this cardiologist could say is, “It doesn’t happen.” He was a total a-hole. Major ego syndrome where “he can do no wrong.”

    My poor mother underwent several surgeries under general anesthesia for stents at the age of 83, and she was weaker and less cognitive after each procedure.

    My mother was also on seven drugs total prescribed by her cardiologist. She was on Plavis which caused severe bruising and bleeding. Her cardiologist’s response to that was, “That just means it’s working.” Again this doc was (is) an arrogant a-hole. Her energy levels continued to plummet, and her once bubbly and vivacious personality was wiped away.

    My mother eventually succumbed to kidney and liver failure (my mother rarely ever had alcoholic beverages). I believe the three years she was on so many many of those medications it ravaged her frail body combined with the rounds of general anesthesia.

    Any doc who says that general anesthesia is perfectly safe is a bold face liar. My mother passed from this world at the age of 86.

    Do I take what a doctor says with face value any more? Hell no! However, I’d be a fool to discount all doctors as being arrogant jerks; there are some truly brilliant, open minded and genuinely caring doctors out there. But from my mother’s and my personal experience with doctors, it made me sooooo skeptical of what one doctor says as being “the final word.”

    I would like to add that my mother loved to eat bread, cakes, pies, lots of carbs and little protein. She was raised on those foods. My mother, however, wasn’t overweight though. Her mother (my grandmother) was an outstanding baker.

    But we now know how ravaging sugar is to our vascular system. Get this, my mother’s cardiologist told her to: use an egg substitute (don’t ever eat real eggs), use a sugar substitute, don’t eat meat, use a salt substitute and use margarin instead of butter! What could be farther from the truth!!!! ARRRRGH! He says to abstain from all of the necessary foods and never mentioned all of the breads and high carbs she was eating as the culprit to her heart disease.

    Regarding a sugar substitute he recommended Sweet n’ Low that’s pure saccharine! Wonderful, hug? Most hospitals and doctors are way behind the times when it comes to nutrition. From what I’ve read medical students only get about forty hours total training in nutrition in their six+ years of medical training.

    • Robert, am so sorry to hear about your mom. You know, we are taught “listen to your body!”. Just gotta do it, no matter what these horrible docs tell us. They are on the payroll of the big pharmas, etc. It is ALL about $. Your mom could have had such a better end-of-life, had she just ignored the docs…but that is HARD to do. We have to learn to immune ourselves. I had a friend who started taking some antihistamine, she called the doc and got the std statement: oh, that just proves it’s working. The next day she was in the ER, the next day, in the morgue. She was in early 40’s.

  15. I just have to say thanks for putting this information together.

    Up until last year I had been an avid cyclist. This last Fall and Winter I was pretty inactive and ate a terrible diet. About 3 weeks ago I went to see my doctor and wasn’t happy with my weight. So I started on low glycemic index/loading diet and started exercising again. About 8 days later I had full blood work done at my doctor and my ldl level was 166 which is considered high.

    Even though I have made the change to a healthy diet, the first words out of my doctors mouth was “medicate”. That’s all that new doctors know seem to any more. I told him that I refuse to take a statin and he is insistent that it is an absolute necessity.

    Again, thanks for putting this information together.

    • There is a truly excellent book out called ‘The Truth About Statins’ by Dr. Barbara H. Roberts, M.D. She delves into whether people should take statins if they are on ‘primary prevention’ vs. ‘secondary prevention’. I would suggest you closely read this book, and come to your own conclusion along with your doc (or get a second or third opinion).

  16. Hi Chris,
    Would you mind posting some of your sources. This is very interesting but I can only take it with a pinch of salt until I can see a little proof of some of the facts and figures you’ve been giving.
    Great article though and I hope anyone reading this that may be suffering from heart disease start thinking of alternatives like exercise and change in diet.

  17. I’ve 52, otherwise healthy, and have been on Crestor 5mg for a few months now, after my Cardiologist discovered 20 to 39% homogenous plaque in my left carotid artery (he did an ultrasound scan). I have a harder time concentrating and feel like my brain is ‘in a fog’ at times. Plus, on certain days, I get muscle pain between my shoulder blades. I had a complete blood work 8 weeks after I started taking this statin, and my doc told me that my kidney and liver ‘markers’ looked good, so I am tolerating the drug. How can I be ‘tolerating’ it when it’s causing cognitive dysfunction and my slight muscle pain and discomfort?! On the positive side, i’ve lost some weight, and my other numbers (APO, particle size, cholesterol, LDL, HDL, etc.) were all perfect according to him. Whereas just before my diagnosis they were not. Plus, my doc tells me that he has some patients who showed mild to very significant plaque regression within their carotids, while on the Crestor! But of course, I am wondering, AT WHAT COST? I have read articles that claim statin damage the body and muscles over time, and that they actually CREATE heart disease by often hardening the arteries! This is, of course, VERY disconcerting and even maddens me! WHO DO YOU BELIEVE?! We truly live in a day and age of conflicting claims, and it has become impossible even for those like me that read and try to educate themselves, to sort through it all!

    • Are you taking CoQ10? I would suggest 100mgs 2x/day to start. I would also suggest a blood test to check on CoQ10 levels.

      Have you had your CK levels measured?

      • Yes, I take 100mg of CoQ10 a day. I re-took a complete blood workup recently, and my inflammation markers and others that previously indicated that I have ‘metabolic syndrome’, were normalized. The Crestor is apparently helping me in that regard, but at what cost?! My shoulder blade area is sore, and even hurts at times, no doubt due to the Crestor side effects. I sometimes feel weak and tired, and get fleeting ‘pins and needles’ feelings on certain parts of my body. My blood test also indicated that I am apparently tolerating the drug (liver and kidney markers) well. Of course, my intermittent side effects would tell me otherwise! And on top of this, I have read articles on the internet that statins actually may CAUSE arteries to harden! If I was on ‘primary prevention’ I would NEVER take this drug. But for ‘secondary prevention’ (actual CV disease diagnosis/Carotid plaque) as in my case, 2 Cardiologists told me that I have to take it in order to stop carotid plaque growth or even get plaque regression. I’m stuck ‘in between a rock and a hard place’!

        • If you wish to stop carotid plaque growth or get plaque regression WITHOUT the use of statins then your only other choice may be a diet like Esselstyn, Ornish, Fuhrman or Pritikin.

          These are the only two options that have been proven to work.

          Other than articles which recommend therapies like the Pauling Protocol, etc. which have not been verified in peer reviewed journals.


          • Peer Review journals will most likely will not take an article that is not about a drug.
            Ads from pharmaceutical companies support those journals, so the reason why may be a bit obvious.

  18. Thats great. You should still listen to the lecture, it is really good. You might just learn something 🙂


  19. Your doctor is ignorant and does not know what he is talking about whatsoever. Please see this interview with Dr. Stephanie Seneff: In this interview she explains very in depth precisely why NO ONE should be taking statins not even those with hypercholesterolemia. She explains why statins are actually very bad for the heart and cause widespread catastrophic damage. Statins are a huge fraud and make billions of dollars for drug companies and are damaging millions of people. They may help in rare cases for people who refuse to change their diet and lifestyle but compared to real solutions to cholesterol and cardiovascular problems they amount to total fraud. See my post above on may 15th of last year to see what the most important things are for cardiovascular health. Nutrition and lifestyle changes are the answer, drugs are not and never will be. I would get a new doctor, one that actually understands physiological problems in terms of what the body really needs – which is NEVER a drug. There are also many effective natural solutions to hypertension, such as grapeseed extract, astaxanthin, tocotrienols, ubiquinol, and quercetin and balancing insulin and leptin, balancing omega 3/omega 6 intake, and becoming well mineralized, which are also all very effective at balancing cholesterol and for cardiovascular health. If you find a good doctor he/she will likely be able to take you off of the liprinosil and solve the problem naturally and safely without the need for drugs.

    Best wishes!

    • @DM

      One could also check out celery seed extract for hypertension as well.

      HOWEVER – there are cases where someone needs to take a drug to control their hypertension as supplements/changes in diet do not work for everyone.

      As to statins what would you say to someone who has FH? What dietary changes would you make it you had FH?

      • I too (54 yo female, fit, normal BMI, healthy diet) have been told I must take Statins due toFH (although they cannot check this as I have no surviving close family) but I have very high cholesterol and further tests have shown I have an Lp-PLA reading of 277 (which apparently IS an indicator of high risk plaque formation). Can find nothing on whether my prescribed Statins would help with this. Whatever, they make me feel SO ill and depressed I am giving them up and have been given a prescription from the nutritionist which includes niacin, fish oils, curcumin and cholesterase.

          • Only Rosuvastatin. My prescription is for 20mg per day but I am sawing them in half! I was only on them for 2 weeks before I started feeling awful…

            • What reason did the doctor give you for such a high starting dosage? Were you advised to take CoQ10 with the statin?

        • @Helen

          Have you had either the NMR or the VAP test?

          It would be of value if you knew your LDL-P and small LDL-P totals

          • I had an indepth blood test last year but for some reason it only gives a reading for LDL-size Large (pattern a) – which is 21.1
            the small (pattern b) box is empty…

            • Rereading my results I have some “size” results under my insulin resistance scores of HDL size 8.8
              LDL size 21.1
              VLDL size 25
              are these of any significance to what you asked?! I know they are printed in orange so are not “good” results…

      • There are many other things i did not mention that can help with hypertension, including gynostemma, garlic, turmeric, cayenne, hawthorne, and many other substances (yes including celery seed extract). Supporting the lymph system with rebounding, arabinogalactin, etc. Eating foods like broccoli sprouts, noni, and miso. Avoiding sugar and wheat. intermittent fasting, Reducing inflammation, etc, etc. Perhaps in rare cases a drug is necessary but usually with a very skilled naturopathic doctor a drug will not be necessary – it will often depend on what dietary changes a person is willing to make.

        As for FH, there are varying opinions amongst nutritionists, the opinion of Dr. Seneff in the interview I reference is that not even those with FH should be taking statins. It should first be realized that high cholesterol is not nearly as unhealthy as big pharma wants us to think it is. There are many studies showing high cholesterol is healthier than low cholesterol. Even the Framingham study shows this for certain age groups (>47). And I am not saying high cholesterol is healthy, just not as unhealthy as claimed by those making billions of dollars from it. Cholesterol is one of the most important and healthy substances in the human body. It is essential for hormones, brain function, heart function, gut function, childhood development, etc. It is oxidized cholesterol that is of particular concern and it is LDL-P and ratios that are actually more important and these are heavily influenced by diet and lifestyle even with FH. So if a person has FH and high cholesterol, what are their ratios, what is the LDL-P what kind of oxidation is going on? And there are many more questions to ask. It is not just a matter of a number. In my opinion, most FH could be handled without statins by skillful application of nutrition. But again it would depend on what changes a person is willing to make. And it may mean a person has to just live with high cholesterol as long as their ratios and other markers are good and the oxidation is low. Doctors are often all about just getting a number, which shows very little understanding about how the body actually works and what it needs.

        As far as what dietary changes I would make, that is quite a complicated question and could vary greatly from person to person. Everyone is different and thats why such problems need very knowledgeable and skillful application of nutrition and lifestyle changes which usually means a highly trained person needs to be involved who actually understands physiology at a very deep level and is not just a drug expert/pusher as most doctors are.

        There many many nutritional interventions for healthy cholesterol. Things like omega 3’s, reduction of omega 6, coconut oil, olive oil, red palm oil, black cumin seed oil, niacin, tocotrienols, curcuminoids, pomegranate, enzymes, optimal D3 (and K2) levels, magnesium, chromium, antioxidants, the right types of protein, the right types of vegetables and fruit, optimal gut flora balance (fermented foods), avoiding sugar and wheat and rancid fats, weight control, balancing insulin and leptin, exercise and on and on and on. Statins will never compete with what is available nutritionally. How much of these nutrients to take and what foods to eat varies widely, but there are many highly effective tools that a skilled nutritionist can use to balance cholesterol and reduce oxidation. I think statins should be banned. I believe they have caused more deaths and suffering than they have prevented. They have made more money for the drug industry than any other drug in history so of course the all powerful drug industry fights very hard to keep them around and to maintain the illusion they are actually helpful and that high cholesterol is terrible and must be lowered at any cost or else a heart attach is imminent. That is simply not true.

        Hope that helps a little bit. Take care.

      • Well I will try this again, the comment did not seem to get posted? If it does at a later time, then please ignore the double post.

        So charles, I wanted to give you a link to a lecture by byron richards, an excellent CCN, who discusses what causes high blood pressure, what to do about it, and why drugs are never needed except in emergency situations for a short period of time. He discusses why the blood pressure medications are very toxic and damaging and should be avoided. Enjoy!

        • I don’t take any meds for my slightly high blood pressure – I use celery seed extract and fish peptace.

    • DM, are you still reading these posts? would like to run a scenario by you. healthy, runner, cyclist, lipid numbers all great, but a “less than 20%, yet significant” amount of plaque showed up in a carotid artery ultrasound (was having chest pains, which have subsided – went to cardiologist who gave me three tests) i am 51, a jogged 6 miles this morning – in fact, the cardiologist was amazed at how long it took him to get my pulse up to double in my echo cardiogram/stress test. anyway, i also eat clean – very clean, and don’t smoke. daily, moderate to little wine intake.

      cardiologist wants me in low does statins for the plaque. thoughts? thank you in advance.

      • Another cause of plaque is hyperhomocystinemia. We don’t hear much about this condition which affects around 13% of the population because the treatment is….vitamins, namely Vit B12 and folate.

      • I read an article by Dr. Al Sears that statins make it harder for the pulse rate to increase with exercise. He routinely will take his patients off of statin drugs.

        Does that natural process being inhibited sound like a good thing to you?

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