Home Heart Problems The benefits and dangers of statins; review

The benefits and dangers of statins; review

Statins, or generic pills, pouring from a pack. Close up with shallow depth of field

If, like me, you are being threatened with a conspiracy to force statins down your throat, here are a few things to know first of all.

There is no doubt they have some benefits – The UK Saga website quotes Dr Mike Schachter, a general physician at St Mary’s Hospital, London.

“Cholesterol is the single greatest risk factor for heart disease and a major risk factor in stroke and disease of the arteries. Statins reduce harmful cholesterol by slowing its production in the liver.

They’re proven to reduce heart attack and stroke by reducing harmful cholesterol which thickens arteries and increases risk of clots. A review of 90,000 statin users by the Medical Research Council in Oxford and the University of Sydney concluded that risk of fatal heart attack or stroke fell by about a third.

Benefits started immediately, increased the longer they were taken and the further cholesterol fell. It reported statins are especially valuable to people at high risk of heart attack or stroke and they protect patients whose cholesterol was considered normal.”

The truth, of course, is that not all cholesterol is bad. High Density lipoprotein is actually good for your body – you need cholesterol under your skin to make vitamin D (essential to your immune system and in prevention of illnesses) and for membranes and your brain.

Unfortunately, the standard ‘You need statin’ test just measures overall cholesterol levels and does not distinguish between the two. Regular consumption of fresh nuts (not peanuts which are vegetables not nuts) and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, will see a growth in levels of HDL at the expense of LDL.There are also research studies showing that Green tea consumption lowers LDL levels.

Dr Malhotra, a top UK cardiologist, has firm views on the subject stating that governments have been preoccupied with cholesterol – 8 million people were on statins in the UK  – yet in a dozen or so years of statins, heart disease rates had not declined at all.

But Schachter continues “There’s no question that statins save lives. Cardiovascular disease is the nation’s biggest killer causing 238,000 deaths a year. It’s estimated by Roger Boyle, the government’s National Director for Coronary Heart Disease, that statins save 9,000 lives a year in the UK. They particularly benefit those who have suffered heart attack or stroke, or have angina or peripheral arterial disease.”

Statin side-effects

“As well being effective statins are usually well tolerated by patients who can expect to stay on them for life. Trials show they’re relatively free of adverse side-effects and that most people take them without trouble, but as with any effective drug, there are associated risks including diarrhoea, flatulence, headaches, fatigue, sleeplessness and liver problems. Statins cause some users to have difficulty climbing stairs, lack energy and have painful muscles after exercise. These side-effects must of course be taken into account and if they persist or get worse then the drugs must be stopped. But this is not the case for most people taking statins”.

Statins and Coenzyme Q10

It is important to note that statins are known to halve the levels of coenzyme Q10 in the body (1). This compound is employed in your energy production systems in the cells of your body. It is vital to your health.

Sadly, as you age, over 50 we make less and less. You can top up your stocks on a daily basis – you will find good amounts in Offal. You might prefer to supplement and one study showed regular supplentation (up to 50 mgs a day) returned people to levels associated with 28 year olds after about 3 months.

CoQ10 is thus more plentiful in our energetic tissues – muscle, internal organs such as heart and brain. And Doctors are on the lookout for problems with muscles and heart; but brain? What test is there at the moment?

Research also showed a 30% increased risk of diabetes amongst statin takers. Personally, I’ll stick to an oily fish, fresh nuts, green tea and extra virgin olive oil diet. If I ever need to take a statin, which I very much doubt, I will start by looking at natural Cosinols – even Boots now sells them.

1. Rundek T, et al. Atorvastatin Decreases the Coenzyme Q10 Level in the Blood of Patients at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke. Arch Neurol. 2004;61:889-892.