The Truth about Statin Drugs | Chris Kresser
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The Truth about Statin Drugs

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Since their introduction in the 1980s, statin drugs have been almost universally hailed as “wonder drugs” by medical authorities around the world. The global market for statins was $16 billion in 2016, and approximately 40 million Americans (that’s one in every five adults!) takes a statin. (1)

statin drugs
Do statin drugs really improve heart health? iStock/SelectStock

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is still the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming 350,000 lives annually. (2) Medical authorities and doctors claim that statins reduce the risk of CVD and vascular deaths by lowering levels of total cholesterol and proclaimed “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol.

But are statins really as safe and effective as mainstream medical authorities claim? The unequivocal answer is NO.

Statin drugs are not always safe or effective, despite what mainstream medicine claims. Check out this article to find out the truth about statins, when they work, and when they don’t. #chriskresser #healthylifestyle #wellness

The Side Effects of Statin Drugs

The pharmaceutical industry and the medical establishment have spent considerable effort trying to convince people that statins drugs are safe and sadly, they’ve been largely successful (you can read more about that in this blog post from Dr. John Briffa). Some time ago a physician in the UK by the name of Dr. John Reckless (you can’t make this stuff up) suggested that statins are so safe that they should be put in the water supply!

That’s ridiculous, of course. Statins are dangerous drugs.

There’s no denying that statins are effective at lowering blood cholesterol levels. Depending on the dose and circumstance, LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) can be lowered by 30 to 60 percent. (3)

However, high cholesterol in the blood is just one of many factors that contribute to heart disease, and the evidence is mixed on how strong of a CVD risk predictor LDL and total cholesterol are. As I discuss below, LDL particle number (LDL-P) may be a better indicator of heart disease risk. For more information on this topic, check out my article “The Diet-Heart Myth: Why Everyone Should Know Their LDL Particle Number.”

It’s important to note that cholesterol is vital for our bodies to function properly—it doesn’t exist just to give us heart disease. Cholesterol provides structure to our cell membranes, and cholesterol is a precursor to many biologically necessary products, including: (3)

  • Sex steroids
  • Corticosteroids
  • Bile acid
  • Vitamin D

Statins work by inhibiting beta-hydroxy-beta-methylglutaryl-CoA (HMG-CoA) reductase—an enzyme involved in cholesterol synthesis. But this enzyme has other jobs, too, such as aiding in the synthesis of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a key mitochondrial antioxidant needed for cellular energy metabolism. (4)

Therefore, tinkering with cholesterol synthesis via statins can yield unwanted side effects. The most common statin-related side effects are muscle-related issues, including:

  • Pain
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Myopathy, in rare cases

Muscle problems are reported in 10 to 30 percent of patients from observational studies, and in up to 5 percent in randomized controlled trials (RCTs). (5, 6)

New-onset diabetes while taking statins occurs most often in women and in people who already have some metabolic risk factors. (7, 8) Some studies have found no association with statins and diabetes, (9) while a meta-analysis of 13 RCTs found that statin use was associated with a 9 percent relative increased risk of diabetes. (10)

Other less common side effects associated with statin use have been reported, but not all have been proven to be caused by statins themselves:

  • Hemorrhagic stroke (11)
  • Liver dysfunction (12)
  • Cognitive disturbances (13)
  • Depression and mood instability (14)
  • Skin infections (15)
  • Decreased libido and impotence (16)
  • Rhabdomyolysis (very rare, but can lead to life-threatening kidney failure) (17)

Are the Claims about Statins Overstated? Absolute vs. Relative Risk

“Statins reduce deaths from coronary heart disease by 28 percent in men.” This is a headline from 2017 reporting the results from a long-term study on cholesterol-lowering statins. (18) Sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it?

An important thing to understand about drug clinical trials and medical claims is the difference between relative risk and absolute risk. For example, imagine that your risk of developing Condition A is one-half of 1 percent—0.5 percent. That’s your absolute risk, and it’s quite low. Now, imagine that Drug B reduces your chance of developing Condition A down from one-half of 1 percent to one-quarter of 1 percent.

We could report this reduction in one of two ways:

  • Your relative risk of developing Condition A was reduced by a whopping 50 percent, from 0.5 percent to 0.25 percent, from Drug B.
  • Your absolute risk was reduced by a mere one-quarter of 1 percent, or 0.25 percent, for an already low-risk event.

Reporting relative risk reduction without acknowledging absolute risk reduction can overinflate the benefits of a drug or treatment. Many statin studies and claims perfectly exemplify this phenomenon.

In a large meta-analysis from The Lancet that summarized and evaluated 26 RCTs, the authors report that all-cause mortality is reduced with statin treatment by 10 percent each year for every 39 mg/dL reduction in LDL-C. (19) They are reporting relative risk. 

However, the data from tables and figures reveal something much less impressive. Taking all trials together, the per annum death rate for overall mortality went from 2.3 percent to 2.1 percent for every 39 mg/dL reduction in LDL-C. That’s an absolute risk reduction of a mere 0.2 percent. The absolute risk reduction for all vascular-related deaths across all studies was only reduced from 1.3 percent per year to 1.2 percent with statin treatment.

It’s difficult to put numbers and cost on even a single life saved, but it’s hard to argue the fact that a 10 percent relative risk reduction sounds a lot more “impressive” and worth it than a 0.2 percent absolute risk reduction.

What the Media Isn’t Telling You About Statin Drugs

Press releases and media reports about statin drugs often dramatically overstate their effectiveness, while understating their risk.

For example, consider this quote regarding the Heart Protection Study (HPS):

“In this trial, 10 thousand people were on a statin. If now, an extra 10 million high-risk people worldwide go onto statin treatment, this would save about 50,000 lives each year—that’s a thousand a week.”

That sounds pretty compelling, doesn’t it? It’s hard to argue against saving 50,000 lives a year.

But that’s not what the study showed at all. In fact, the following would be a more accurate report on the results of this study, couched in the context of what we know from other statin drug trials:

  • Out of 100 high-risk people taking a statin for five years, 98.2 will not see any benefit to their heart health at all—but they will be exposed to significant side effects and complications.
  • The 1.8 people that do benefit will live an average of six months (and a maximum of one year) longer than those who didn’t take the statin.
  • These results only apply to the people at highest risk for a future heart attack: middle-aged men who’ve already had a heart attack. There is little compelling evidence that statins extend lifespan at all in men without pre-existing heart disease or women with or without heart disease (more on this below).

It’s misleading to claim that the HPS study showed that statins “save lives.” According to the HPS data, even in the highest risk populations, the best that statins can do is extend lifespan for a few months for less than two out of 100 people who take them.

For more on this topic, I recommend checking out Dr. Malcolm Kendrick’s fantastic article about how deceptive and misleading media reporting on statin drug trials can be.

Statins Don’t Benefit Otherwise Healthy People

Initially, statins were prescribed only to people who had very high LDL-C and a history of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD). This is referred to as “secondary prevention.” Over the years, treatment standards have expanded to include people who are “at risk” of developing ASCVD based on a number of criteria, but don’t actually have it. (20, 21) This strategy is called “primary prevention.”

Many studies have been conducted to justify prescribing statins for primary prevention. Although statins moderately reduce cardiovascular events such as heart attack in people without heart disease, the research doesn’t indicate that statins reduce overall mortality in these populations.

  • The WOSCOPS study found a slight reduction in death from cardiovascular causes, but no significant effect on death from non-cardiovascular causes or death from all causes was found compared to placebo. (22)
  • In the AFCAPS/TexCAPS study, men and women with high total cholesterol and LDL-C levels but no heart disease were prescribed statins. Major coronary events at the end of the study were slightly reduced, but overall deaths did not differ between drug and placebo. (23)
  • In patients with elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, an indicator of chronic inflammation, either placebo or statins were given to otherwise healthy men and women. Although statins reduced death from both cardiovascular causes and all causes, a higher incidence of diabetes was reported in the statin-treated group. (24)

Although a handful of studies have found significant reductions in death from any cause by prescribing statins to people without heart disease, the absolute benefits are extremely small. (25, 26) The majority of the literature fails to demonstrate clear benefits of statins for primary prevention. (27, 28, 29) For more on this topic, check out my article “The Diet-Heart Myth: Statins Don’t Save Lives in People without Heart Disease.”

Statins Don’t Increase Survival in the Elderly

Despite the fact that the vast majority of people who die from heart disease are over age 65, there is limited evidence that statins benefit this population. (30) In the PROSPER trial, a study that dealt exclusively with the elderly, statins reduced the incidence of death from heart disease. (31) However, this decrease was almost entirely negated by a corresponding increase in cancer deaths. As a result, overall mortality between the statin and placebo groups after over three years was nearly identical.

Another study analyzed the effects of statins vs. standard care in patients over age 65 without CVD, as a secondary analysis of a previous study. (32) The authors reported that over six years of treatment, patients treated with statins actually lived an average of 33 days fewer than those receiving usual care—a very small absolute change, but not at all in favor of statin treatment.

Although outlier data exist (33), the bulk of the evidence suggests that statins don’t extend life in the elderly, regardless of whether they have heart disease or not. And, in fact, the highest death rates in the elderly, especially those over age 80, are associated with the lowest cholesterol levels. (34, 35)

Mixed Evidence on Statins for Women

Drug trials have a long history of underrepresenting women as participants. Statins are no exception. Even as recent as 2017, a review paper admits that “up-to-date evidence shows that statins have not been adequately tested in women, especially in primary prevention trials.” (36) As of 2016, women comprised less than 25 percent of all statin trial participants to date. (37)

For primary prevention of CVD, studies have consistently reported that, although statins may reduce the risk of a coronary event and even vascular-related deaths, overall mortality is unchanged compared to placebo for women, even when overall mortality is reduced significantly (but marginally) in men. (38, 39, 40)

For secondary prevention of CVD, reports have been somewhat mixed. One large meta-analysis of 11 RCTs found that in women, statins reduced the risk of all cardiovascular events, but not overall mortality. (41) Another meta-analysis looked at eight primary prevention and 10 secondary prevention trials, and found that statins did benefit women in terms of cardiovascular events and death from all causes. (42)

Do Statins Help Anyone?

To sum up thus far:

  1. Statins can lower cholesterol levels and moderately decrease the risk of CVD-related deaths in some populations.
  2. There is little to no evidence that statins increase life expectancy in women, in the elderly, or in people without pre-existing heart disease.
  3. Statins carry non-negligible risks.

So whom do they help?

Studies consistently show that statins benefit middle-aged men who already have heart disease (secondary prevention). Many large controlled trials, including 4S, CARE, LIPID, HPS, TNT, MIRACL, and PROVE-IT, have shown relative risk reductions in vascular events and cardiac death between 7 percent on the low end and 32 percent on the high end, with an average risk reduction of around 20 percent. (43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49)

However, absolute risk reductions were much more modest, ranging from 0.8 percent to 9 percent. And, importantly, not every trial found that statins improved overall mortality. (44)

LDL-P: A Better Marker for Cardiovascular Risk?

Cardiologists and other doctors consider LCL-C the enemy and a great predictor for CVD later in life. In my clinical experience, I have found that LDL-P is a much better marker for CVD risk than LDL-C. The two sometimes are correlated, but often they can be discordant, leading to unnecessary or harmful treatment. (50, 51) Peer-reviewed research has confirmed that LDL-P is a much better predictor of CVD and vascular events compared to LDL-C. (52, 53, 54)

It’s beyond the scope of this article, but I wrote about the four main causes of high LDL-P in a previous article. The cause dictates appropriate treatment, which doesn’t often involve statins.

What’s an Alternative to Statin Drugs?

So what if you are at risk for heart disease and you’d prefer not to take a statin? There are many clinically proven ways to prevent heart disease naturally by adjusting your diet and lifestyle. In fact, the INTERHEART study, which looked at the incidence of heart disease in 52 countries, revealed that over 90 percent of heart disease is preventable by diet and lifestyle modifications. (55)

How to Live a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle

To prevent heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends a so-called “heart-healthy diet,” which emphasizes nutrient-poor foods like industrial seed oils and whole grains while restricting nutrient-dense foods like red meat, animal fat, and cholesterol.

A better dietary approach to heart health should include foods like:

  • Cold water, fatty fish
  • Monounsaturated fats from avocados, macadamia nuts, olives, and olive oil
  • Antioxidant-rich foods, like colorful fruits and vegetables
  • Soluble fiber

Other lifestyle factors that have a profound effect on lower CVD risk include:

  • Exercise
  • Better sleep
  • Stress management

For more on how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle, check out my article “The Diet-Heart Myth: How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Naturally.” 

Changing your diet and lifestyle isn’t an easy task to accomplish—even when there’s a good reason to do so, like improving heart health. That’s because achieving real, lasting behavior change isn’t a simple matter of acquiring new information. It’s a complex process that requires motivation, accountability, empowerment, and support—and that’s where health coaches excel.

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  1. From United Kingdom.
    I am in my 80th year. 3 or 4 years ago I was pushed by my GP into taking statins to lower my cholesterol. I stopped and started them 3 times because of the side effects but being pushed back into taking them by the GP. Eventually after the 3rd time – when I had had severe weakness in my upper arms (could not lift a dinner plate!) and coming out in VERY itchy spots which lasted for 9 months – I refused to take the statins any more, though am still having them suggested to me.
    I was recently very ill (a perfect storm of my many old age complaints). One of my tests revealed that I had “Low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma” ! I began to investigate. Since the statins – have been told that my immune system is ‘working overtime’; I have started to grow body hair (for the first time since the menopause); I found that the itchy spots were toxic erythema – which I had in pregnancy. I wonder how many of my other ‘small’ troubles ie: tinnitus, digestive disorders etc may also be due to statins? All the Consultants I have seen dismiss the word ‘statin’ immediately and refuse to discuss it.
    I just thought you might be interested. Not expecting any great breakthrough.

    • Olga, I am so sorry to hear of your all too common story, Doctor prescribes a statin, patient suffers an adverse event, doctor denies any relationship to the statin..Thats what they do, because they get essentially all of their Statin/Cholesterol “knowledge” from the Pharmaceutical Sales Reps, who are paid very handsomely to SELL drugs…meaning they will boast tedious benefits, and minimize if not completely fail to disclose the all too common adverse effects. Perhaps, your doctor (like so many) is not aware that NEVER has any Statin proven to benefit any woman…the only ones who had any benefit (albeit quite small) were Middle Aged Men, with confirmed heart disease …either a prior heart attack, or confirmed blockages seen on coronary angiogram (heart cath). Id like to recommend a book by Dr Barbara Roberts, a Cardiologist of 30+ years who specialized in women. the book “The Truth About Statins:Risks and Alternatives to Cholesterol Lowering Drugs” very well written and quite easy to understand

      • Thank you for your prompt and knowledgeable reply – I have had so many ‘odd’ symptoms I forgot to say I also (still) have peripheral neuropathy. Over Christmas (2016) everyone we knew had a ‘virus’ (never been named by the medical profession but flu-like). I and two other female friends had it for around 8 weeks, our menfolk less. Out of curiosity I have recently asked my female friends if they are/ever had been taking statins. All said ‘yes’ but have stopped them over a year ago. Strange???
        For myself I shall NEVER take them again even though still being bullied into it by being told I could die of heart disease or high cholesterol. I just do not believe doctors have my best interests at heart anymore.

        • Please remember, ONLY YOU have the final decision on what you choose to allow in your body, nobody can force you to take these wretched drugs.

  2. My lipid panel improved when I adopted a more healthy diet, which I initially did to slow or reverse my descent into diabetes from pre-diabetes. First, my blood sugar numbers improved and I lost some weight, then my blood pressure got better, then after a few months my lipid panel improved dramatically! I’m a year into the improved diet and my head is clear, skin has a glow, I’m sleeping better, my blood sugar numbers are normal and my blood pressure and lipid panel are close to normal. I’m still working on losing a few more pounds and improving my fitness level. Completely worth the effort.

    Moral of the story is that diet can affect lipid panel more than drugs and once you take the plunge, it gets increasingly easier.

    On the advice of an Integrative Physician, I eat lots of veggies (raw and cooked), egg whites, an occasional yolk, chicken, turkey, fish and lean pork and use mainly olive oil and avocado for fats. Full disclosure, I “cheat” a little here and there, but not much. I’m convinced now that, FOR ME anyway, this diet is the key to my good health.

  3. Just discovered this group. I swore I’d never take a statin until my new doctor (an old friend and fellow runner) insisted I take an ultrasound reading of the carotid arteries. it showed some plaque buildup and I was advised by several professionals that a statin would clear the arteries instead of “just lowering cholesterol” I’ve been taking generic atorvastatin for about a month, notice no significant side effects but would prefer a natural way to REDUCE PLAQUE. This is my main concern. Would appreciate any comments from this intelligent informed group.

    • Look up Dr. William Davis. Author of wheat belly. I think his site is track your plaque.com. Also Google and look into low carb high fat as a reversal of plaque and calcium build up You might look into Dr Rocky Patell( not sure about that spelling). He reversed his calcium deposits eating LCHF. Dr Pete Atilla, Dr. Malcolm Kendrick. Man the list goes on and on.

  4. I have been unable to take statins due to adverse side effects, my doctor insists that my cholesterol be controlled. I’ve been on Lodalis a Bile Acid Sequestrant for 4 months, my cholesterol went from 5.2 to 2.2, i have not had much in the way of side effects except for some indigestion and bloating. My blood sugar also improved. Thankgod for a good medical plan where i work as the cost of this medication is prohibitive.

    • Marc, if you are not happy with your pushy doctor, fire him! No different than an auto mechanic you dont like! Only you have your best interest at heart,and ONLY YOU have the final say as to what you put into your body.. I refuse to let my cholesterol even be checked…in spite of my former doctors insistance that “I dont want to see you die at 45 of a heart attack”…I asked him if he was aware that NO STATIN STUDY has ever shown more than a 0.34% absolute risk reduction. Of course he argued that they are almost 50% risk reduction (relative risk reduction)…I FIRED HIM…this was even after Dr Golomb of the UCSD Statin Effects Study called and discussed with him how the Holes in my brain (Apoptosis) were a direct result of starving the brain cells of Ubiquinol, and the Mitochondrial DNA mutations seen under electron microscopy were also a direct result of the fact that Statins are Mito-Toxic….This was backed up, by Dr Doug Wallace of the UC Irvine, one of the worlds top mitochondrial experts who concurred with Dr Golomb. Dr Wallace even called me shortly after the Statin Effects Study concluded and shared with me, “we know where your use of statins took you, and I can tell you with almost absolute certainty, should you choose to take another statin, there is only one way for you to go”…Good enough for me! Thats all I needed. I am an admin on a facebook group for statin effects, and there are 700 members, most victims of statins, and MANY with permanent neurological impairments, such as myself. NO NOT ALLOW THIS POISON INTO YOUR BODY!

      • Getting cholesterol levels deliberately not checked due to statins’ side effects is like hiding cockroaches and pretend there aren’t any… statins aren’t the only game in town!

        • Honestly, getting your cholesterol checked isn’t really a big help. Most doctors won’t do any test more in depth than a TCO with calculated HDL and LDL, no particle count, no IDL, VLDL, etc… Even if you did have the option of getting a proper particle count, etc. it is still so/so. Cholesterol is not the criminal here and higher cholesterol is actually correlated with LOWER total mortality.

          Statins aren’t the only game in town, but any “game” designed to deal with cholesterol is missing the point…

          • Good point James!! And Yosako, Cholesterol levels are risk factor, and statins do not reduce ones risk based on their cholesterol lowering ability, but rather their pleotropic effects, ie. Anti inflammatory…which is easily controlled by avoiding sugars/carbs/white flours, and consuming antioxidant rich fruits and veggies (mostly veggies)

  5. I have familial hypercholesterolemia and wish I knew the answer. I took Lipitor w/ Zetia for several years and discovered I had a borderline A1C (5.7) even after eating fairly low carb WAPF type diet. I stopped the Lipitor after I heard about the research connecting it to insulin resistance, but my cholesterol became so high, I reluctantly started 10 mg of Prevastatin again.

  6. My story about Statins, 5 years ago my GP announced that my health assessment put my risk of having a heart attack or stroke within 10 years at 15%. He suggested that i should start taking statins and prescribed Crestor, Crestor caused me to immediately develop flu like symptoms, after one week i stopped taking them, next my GP prescribed ,Lipitor, a week later i stopped taking them, (same reason), i was then prescribed niacin, slow release niacin, and then Zocor, which i took with no real issues for two years until he increased my dosage and developing diabetes, my GP made my diabetes diagnosis at a scheduled appointment , i was told by him that i now had a 30% chance of having a heart attack or stroke, after doing research of my own i discovered that statins would increase my chances of developing diabetes by 9%.
    I’m no longer taking statins even after my GP insisted he would prescribe another lower dose statin to see if i could tolerate it.
    How can this be fair? So much for improving my overall health.

    • Hmm, seems to me that I read somewhere that for women, taking a statin increases their risk of developing diabeties by 50%! unbelievable–I wish I could remember where I saw that. Anyway, I do not ever imagine taking a statin ever again. After extensive reading, I’ve come to believe that statins are not what is needed–more so, I question the entire belief that cholesterol is the problem. It’s a long road to figure all this out, and unfortunately I think we all have to do this now–each of, has to study and research on our own. It makes me sad to have lost some faith in the medical community. I’ll always be grateful to have a doctor around when I break an arm, or need my apendix out, but for heart health I will look elsewhere for advise.

    • These days, the best thing you can do to preserve, or improve your health is to NOT go to a doctor

  7. My wife who has a family history of heart disease, a few years ago developed chest pain, the local cardiac specialist immediately prescribed a high dosage of Crestor, my wife developed severe depression, tiredness, weakness, loss of appetite. An angioplasty was performed at a specialized heart hospital out of town, that cardiologist announced that my wife’s arteries were ” in pristine condition, just like the day she was born”, he suggested that the chest pain was due to , “exercised induced asthma” , which after further study is exactly what it turned out to be, she threw the Crestor out were it belongs , in the garbage , and now uses a puffer from time to time, so much for her health assessment that suggests she should be using statins, last week her GP told her that her risk of having a heart attack this year is 30%, what’s going on here?

    • The problem is that most doctors are still basing their diagnosis on hypotheses which were unproven at the time and which have since been disproven, but that they were taught as fact. They base their risk assessment on total serum cholesterol(which is a nearly meaningless number) and don’t bother to take anything else into account.

      • Great to hear from you again James. Last time I talked with my doc (oh, about three months ago?), she was “ok” with my not taking a statin, thought she still thought I should take one and that it would reduce my risk of heart diseasy by 30% (I didn’t even “get into it” with her about the difference between relative risk and absolute risk). But I think they have it fundamentally wrong–what “causes” heart disease.

        • Cindy, I don’t think most physicians are even aware of the difference in Absolute and Relative risk reductions…very sad. I became disabled as a result of Lipitor 10mg, for 3.5 years…in me it caused a 28 day hospitalization at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where I was like a 90 year old with advanced alzheimer’s disease. (I was 34 at the time) I did not know my wife, my 2 year old son, my parents or siblings, I was incontinent of bowel and bladder, could not walk, nor speak coherently…Brain Biopsy revealed Autophagic Vacuoles (Holes in my brain), Electron microscpy revealed Mitochondrial DNA mutations most closely resembling MELAS (Mitochondrial Encephalomyopathy with Lactic Acidosis and Stroke Like Episodes). I was a high functioning Critical Care RN of 12 years practice up to this point. Shortly after discharge from the hospital after beginning a Mitochondrial cocktail of 12 vitamins, amino acids and CoQ10, I enrolled in the UCSD Statin Effects Study, in which I was informed at the conclusion, that “my use of Lipitor was the causal contributor of the Mitochondral mutations, and the Apoptosis (holes in my brain). Every doctor I ever spoke to about this since, share the same response “Statins Dont do that”…I reply, they dont if you listen to the Drug reps, but if you do the research yourself, you will find a whole different story.

          • Oh-my-gosh! I am sorry for your experience! What a nightmarish torture you went though. So it sounds like the statin was indeed the source of this medical crisis. You did not say, but it sounds like you have recovered?—to some degree? I’ve read stories of individuals with permeant damage due to statins.

            I was on Vytorin for oh, maybe 7 years!! It’s only by chance that I stumbled on information regarding cholesterol and statins when I started researching why my triglycerides were going up. I’m sooo thankful for that because who knows, I could still be on statins today. Frankly, I’m appalled at how ignorant the medical community continues to be on the facts regarding heart disease and it’s cause. And I wonder if down the road they may not find a link between low cholesterol and/or statins and the rise in the incidence of Alzheimers (though people are living longer now, and the risk of dementia increases with every decade). Anyway, I digress…

            I’m curious what literature you followed regarding the turn-around of your condition (your mitochondrial cocktail)? A particular book you found informative? I’m always on the look-out for reliable sources of information.

            But it’s hard to buck the system. I am due for an annual check up, which I now dread—to some degree—since I know we’ll have the “cholesterol” talk again. 🙂 But I just smile and say no thank you. And I am—yet again!—appalled that a doc would not understand what the ‘real’ risk numbers mean. Plus, it seems now that it’s becoming understood that statins, in no instances, are beneficial for women to take. Oh gosh, I could go on and on….

            I hope you are doing well now, its sounds like it. Or at least largly recovered? Are you working again? All the best – Cindy

            • Cindy…First of all, if you do not want the cholesterol talk, Shut your doctor down, if they insist, threaten to find a different doctor, and follow through if he is still insistent. Dr Golomb of the UCSD statin Effects study, even called my prescribing doctor to discuss how my illness was related to the statin I took, he shut her down, and was a horses arse to me when I saw him next time. I told him I lost all respect for him as my physician, and I walked out, I encourage everyone to BE BOLD and take charge of your own health. ONLY YOU have the last say as to what you allow in your body. Long gone are the days, when you blindly listed to your doctor as gospel, because all they do is parrot what the highly paid drug reps tell them (they are paid based on the amount of drugs they sell). Cindy, this part is especially pertinent to you, NEVER has any statin study proven ANY benefit for ANY woman, NEVER. And the best any study has ever shown for men under 65, is a less than 0.34% absolute risk reduction…yes, less than 1/2 of 1%…despite what your doctor tells you and what you hear on tv. They are only aware of the relative risk reductions, and not the Absolute Risk Reductions. ie say we have a group of 100 patients, we divide them into 2 equal groups of 50. One group takes a statin, the other group takes a placebo. Say there are 3 heart attacks in the placebo group, and 2 heart attacks in the Statin group, they report the difference between 3 and 2 or 33%…sounds impressive right, 18 billion dollars per year impressive, despite the Absolute risk reduction being only 1%. Lies Damn Lies and Statistics. Cindy, I was like an advanced alzheimers patient in 2002, I was hospitalized, evaluate by every neurologist, med student and resident at UW Madison, they came up with a wide array of possible diagnoses, (ALL WERE WRONG), and after 3 weeks, I was to be sent to a nursing home at 34 years old, when I was evaluated by a visiting professor who suggested a mitochondrial cocktail (Vit E, B Complex, Acetyl L Carnitine, Alpha LIpoiic Acid, CoQ10, and a few others I had stopped taking since then)..within 36 hours of starting this cocktail, my wife told me I was no longer incontinent of bowel and bladder, could answer simple questions, follow simple commands, feed myself, walk with assistance. And I was discharged home with aggressive rehab which I participated for several months. I enrolled in the UCSD Statin Effects Study in late 2002, when I heard about it, and when the study concluded, Dr Golomb had called to share with me that I was one of several patients in her study with similar courses of illness, similar biopsy findings, and she referred our cases to Mitochondrial Disease Expert, Dr Doug Wallace, at UC Irvine, who opined that it was Lipitor that was the causal contributor to the holes in my brain (Apoptosis) as well as the Mitochondrial Encephalomyopathy with Lactic Acidosis Findings on the electron microscopy of my Muscle and brain Biopsies. I was a critical care RN, of 12 years prior to this, when Life as I knew it ceased to exist. I has a wife of 3 years, a 2 year old son, and I did not know any one including my parents, siblings who came to see me. I found my Mitochondrial Cocktail, as I was started on it in 2002 when I was discharged, I did change a few things, such as the changing to Ubiquinol and doubling the dose 2 times (per what Dr Golomb shared with me what she recommends her statin effects patients do, in clinic. Though, she was clear, she could not suggest to me what to do, as she was not my doctor. If you want any additional info, I have tons I would love to share… email me at [email protected]

    • Marc, her physician is apparently spewing relative risk reductions, which are the numbers drug reps use to boast minuscule Absolute Risk Reductions. May I suggest you read, “The Truth About Statins: RIsks and Alternatives to Cholesterol Lowering Drugs” by Dr Barbara Roberts, MD a Cardiologist of 30+ years who specialized in Womens Cardiology

    • Marc, I am sorry to hear of the troubles your wife and yourself are going through. Drs are ALL TO OFTEN, TOO QUICK to Dole out these “wonder drugs” as if they are the be all end all to heart disease, when in fact, they offer VERY LITTLE in the way of Absolute Risk Reductions…in the neighborhood of 1-2%, (A far cry from the glorious numbers drs are told by well paid drug reps.. I suggest you read the book “The Truth About Statins: Risks and Alternatives to Cholesterol Lowering Drugs”, by Dr Barbara Roberts, a Cardiologist of 30+years who specialized in Womens cardiology at Brown College in Rhode Island.

  8. @James “99% of all cholesterol in your body is manufactured by your body, then your body has to be manufacturing it for a reason.”

    Certainly that’s worth considering, but as we know the body sometimes does things that are unhealthy for various reasons including “disjoints” stemming from body processes that developed when human needs were very different. E.g., when humans were all active foragers who might have to go long periods without eating, energy storage as fat served a useful purpose. But today, with more-abundant food and a sedentary lifestyle, such storage can be detrimental. While cholesterol remains essential for life, maybe the body now produces more of it than we need.

    • Well, I guess the questions is, fundamentally, is cholesterol in any way harmful to the body??? Plaque, which can be stable (benign), or unstable (potentially harmful), is composed of numerous substances besides just cholesterol. Why are those other substances not questioned as being harmful? It’s very interesting…last week I had an ultrasound of my carotid arteries and there is zero plaque. The doc said my carotid arteries are “squeaky clean.” I just had my cholesterol checked last month and my TC is 307, I believe LDL was like 222. My LDL-P (particle number) was ~2400! Very high! I’ve been eating healthy Paleo for about a year now. High in healthy fats (grass-fed meat and eggs), veggies, no grains, but dairy (which is not strict Paleo). I am amazed that I (at age 59) zero plaque. Apparently the carotid arteries is the first place plaque will typically develop. So, for me anyway, even with a TC number of over 300, I wonder why I would even be concerned with my cholesterol level, let alone take a statin. I’ve stated already that I think the “real” issue is systemic inflammation. I will continue to read and study.

    • My question is that I have very good numbers, but because my dad had openheart surgery 3 years ago, my grandfather had heart attack at 64 and died, other grandfather had a pace maker at 80, and died at 84. dr wants me on statin Lipitor, I eat right and exercise and everything else ok, do you think I still need to be on meds?

    • It produces more than we ‘need” because it’s trying desperately to get rid of toxins and other nasties. Inflammation is the real issue, which is why your body makes more of it. it’s trying to fight the inflammation, not kill us.

  9. I went on statins when I was ~52 due to elevated cholesterol (~250). A yr. ago I started an intensive study of heart disease, particularly as it relates to cholesterol. I decided to go off my statin, having taking it for six years. My doctor believes it is my choice if I want to take the risk. But my gripe is that she continues to tell me I would enjoy a 30% reduced risk if I took a statin. I want to scream! I’d really like her to read some other literature. She’s a board-certified internist and she continues to try to “sell” me on taking statins. I even brought up the question of cholesterol maybe not really being the “bad guy” that it’s been made out to be—it was if she simply didn’t hear me. I have no other risk factors for CVD, other than high cholesterol, so I would be very disinclined to go back on it. Why can’t the entire medical community figure this one out and come to a consensus on cholesterol!?! Why do there continue to be such vastly opposing opinions on the subject? It’s just driving me crazy!

    • The reason why there are such disparate opinions is really simple… Some sources base their “opinions” and recommendations on facts… and others base it on $26 billion per year…

      • Ha-ha! Yeah. Well, as I have read over the past year, I have heard both sides of the fence point fingers at the other and accuse them of “cherry-picking” the data. I tell ‘ya, at one point I was pretty darn close to pulling out all of my hair–it was driving me that crazy. I’m used to finding and analyzing the facts, at which point I usually find what I believe to be the most obvious/apparent best answer. But with all of this, well, sometimes I just throw up my hands and walk away. All-in-all, I’m leaning towards cholesterol not being something to fear, but that there are other cause(s) of CVD, like inflammation from oxidized industrial seed oils, so prevalent in our western diet, and other various inflammatory substances. So I’m more inclined to think that it’s inflammation than cholesterol.

        • That is a great attitude to take towards decision making, and something most people have neither the inclination nor the interest in doing relating to medical matters, so I applaud you.

          You are right about the contradictory data, but you can approach it from another direction. since 99% of all cholesterol in your body is manufactured by your body, then your body has to be manufacturing it for a reason… So start by looking at your bodies processes and ask the question “why does my body make cholesterol and what does it use it for?”

          • (Re-posting in corrected position.)

            @James “99% of all cholesterol in your body is manufactured by your body, then your body has to be manufacturing it for a reason.”

            Certainly that’s worth considering, but as we know the body sometimes does things that are unhealthy for various reasons including “disjoints” stemming from body processes that developed when human needs were very different. E.g., when humans were all active foragers who might have to go long periods without eating, energy storage as fat served a useful purpose. But today, with more-abundant food and a sedentary lifestyle, such storage can be detrimental. While cholesterol remains essential for life, maybe the body now produces more of it than we need.

        • I was 50 or 51 when my family doctor presribed a statin drug (niaspan I think) Up until I went to him I took no medications. He put me on lisinopril for elevated blood pressure. 6 months after taking the statin I was diabetic. No family history by the way). The Dr. said I was high risk for a heart attack (high blood pressure). I took Atovorstatin for less than 3 years. My LDL was never over 163. I stoppped taking the statin when my LDL hit 36. This was the same time that I went into the hospital for my 2nd pacemaker in less than a year. I had no signs of heart disease until after taking statin drugs. When I got out of the hospital in May I found a company called SPECTRACELL Labs. I had a full Nutrient Panel conducted (at my own expense). I was deficient in Coenzyme-Q10, Glutamin, Glutathione, Serine. I discovered that the statins remove these nutients from your cells which leads to diabetes, cardiovascular and hart disease. I have been taking supplements based on the recommendations of a local Nutritionist. Unfortunately my heart is damaged beyond repair. I can only try to extend my life a few more years. Statins are POISON. Ever wonder why diabetes and heart disease are epidemic with so many adults taking statin drugs. Good for the grug comapnies amd AMA but gad for the peopel. Whether you take a statin or not it might worth having a complete nutrient panel conducted. Maybe you can prevent these diseases if you are at risk.

    • Cindy, Ask your doctor why she quotes Relative Risk Reductions and not the Absolute Risk Reduction….

  10. At around 39/40 years of age I was prescribed statins off the back of one high cholesterol test, and family history of CVD.
    I did as I was told and took my Lipitor, and was asked by my doctor if I would change to a cheaper statin thus saving the NHS money I agreed.
    About this time I became very tired and ached a lot so much so I told my GP he sent me to a neurologist who examined my on several occasions even sending me to the ward overnight to have a muscle biopsy taken from my thigh.
    He mentioned problems with mitochondria, but could not give me a full diagnosis or prognosis.
    I also became forgetful, confused and depressed. I Revisited my GP and was sent for cognitive behavior therapy and put on diazepam.
    I developed chronic acid indigestion.
    Through all this no mention of statin side effects, ever.
    Finally I stopped taking the statins as I got so depressed I thought..’whats the use’.
    These side effects added to stresses within my marriage and after a 22yr marriage my wife left me.
    There is nothing that can compensate for all that, but I would like help with on going symptoms, namely pins and needless and numbness in fingers, hands forearms and feet, getting worse with age (now 47) continued bouts of depression/ suicidal thoughts and cognitive problems like paranoia.
    To that end I would love to take pziser to court any suggestions most welcome.
    I only recently realized my problems all stemmed from statins so my three year product liability clock has, to my mind, just started.

    • My personal experience and research tells me that anything that mess up with cholesterol will give you cognitive issues, joint pain, sleep issues, low testosterone, low adrenal function, severe depression, poor eyesight, impotence, shrunken testicles, cold penis etc. If you visit forums for people suffering from side effects after ingesting
      1- Accutane
      2- Finasteride
      3-Saw palmetto
      4-all cholesterol lowering medicines
      you will quickly see these all people are having the side effects I just mention above. The reason is these all mess up your cholesterol metabolism.

    • THIS is why they should be put in prison for organized crime, getting away with murder, etc. To know they are getting away with this is criminal.

      Red yeast rice gave me those symptoms! Hell no am I EVER going on a statin, familial hypercholesterlemia or not!!

  11. Just a question. I am 70F, exercise pretty strenuously, almost a vegan (about 100grams of fish almost daily: I live by the sea), good metrics: weight, blood (triglycerides, etc.). But, what is the best indicator of good heart health?

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