An estimated 24 million people in the United States use statin drugs daily. First sold in the U.S. in 1987, marketed under brand names like Lipitor, Zocor and Crestor, they were designed to clear away cholesterol that can clog arteries and trigger heart attacks and strokes. However in recent years it seems the majority of current statin users are healthy people who don’t have heart disease, simply high cholesterol. Use among this group has made these drugs one of the world’s best-selling classes of medications. Statins are being marketed to reduce cholesterol as a preventative for heart disease and stroke, but there is a dark side to the use of these medications.
A recent article in the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) has begun to shed some light onto the darker side of statin drug use. In a report, published in June 2011, researchers found there was a dose-dependant relationship between the use of statin drugs and risk of new-onset diabetes. It was found that individuals who were on high-dose statin therapy had an increased risk of developing diabetes as compared to moderate-dose statin therapy use. Chronically high insulin-levels in the blood (diabetes) cause inflammation in the arteries, leading to heart disease. Diabetes can also result in other heart-disease promoting condition such as belly fat and high blood pressure.
Unfortunately the down side of statin drugs does not end there. Statin drugs have also been shown to steal vital nutrients from the body including CoQ10. CoQ10 is a heart-protective vitamin and deficiency has been directly linked to increased risk of heart disease and muscle aches.
Muscle pains associated with statin drugs often prevent people from doing heart-protective physical activity. As well, statins have been associated with numerous other harmful side effects such as rhabdomyolysis, a serious degenerative muscle tissue condition, anemia, sexual dysfunction, cataracts and increased cancer risk.
By decreasing cholesterol levels, statin drugs also reduce your body’s own natural ability to produce vitamin D. Without enough cholesterol you body can’t make optimal amounts of Vitamin D, putting you at risk for Vitamin D deficiency disorders, such as osteoporosis and a lowered immune system. Vitamin D also helps improve insulin resistance, decreasing your risk of diabetes and subsequent heart disease.
With all the negatives associated with statin drugs the question begs to be asked – do the risks really out-way the benefits proposed for “preventative” use of statins. It seems that for “preventative” use (people with no history of heart disease, cholesterol below 330 and normal HDL/Cholesterol ratios) statins do not provide any protective effect and may only increase heart disease risk. The one exception to this may be a special subgroup of the population with a genetic defect called familial hypercholesterolemia.
Better recommendations for heart protection and lowering your risk include: keeping your HDL/Total Cholesterol ratio above 24% and keeping your Triglyceride/HDL ratio below 2. This can be achieved by restricting grains and sugar from your diet, eat high quality animal-based omega-3 fats, avoid trans fats, include “heart healthy” foods in your diet (olive oil, coconut, avocados, nuts, seeds and organic grass fed meat), exercise daily, avoid smoking and drinking excessively and get plenty of rejuvenating sleep.
Sources: The Dark Side of This Popular Drug Taken by 1 in 4 American Over-45 by Dr. Mercola