Drug Companies Are Racing To Develop a New Cholesterol Drug
Many of us have been duped into believing that maintaining our heart health means controlling cholesterol levels. In fact, by some estimates, one in four Americans over the age of 45 are taking the class of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins in the name of heart health, despite the fact that new research shows that, even with widespread use of statins, the progress made over the past several years in lowering cholesterol levels may have stalled.
The pharmaceutical industry is zeroing in on the creation of a completely new class of LDL-lowering drugs based on a rare genetic mutation that causes certain people to have incredibly low cholesterol levels. They figure, if they can reproduce the results seen in those with the mutation—which, by the way, causes people to have dangerously low cholesterol levels—they can cash in on another drug we don’t need. While the FDA has not yet approved the use of these new drugs, you can be sure that the pharmaceutical industry is chomping at the bit to capitalize on this ever-evolving “need” to control cholesterol.
Maybe Cholesterol Isn’t the Real Problem
Of course, in the midst of all this hoopla about cholesterol, no one wants to address the biggest threat when it comes to heart disease risk—chronic systemic inflammation. The body responds to systemic inflammation by coating the blood vessels with cholesterol to protect them from damage. So while cholesterol does become an issue here, chronic inflammation caused the problem in the first place.
When your body is dealing with chronic inflammation, the liver releases certain inflammatory mediators—one of which is C-reactive protein (CRP)—into the blood. The higher your levels of CRP and other inflammatory markers, the greater your risk for heart disease. And studies have found CRP to be a much more reliable indicator of cardiovascular risk than cholesterol.
While statins do lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels to some degree, they can have horrible side effects—including muscle weakness, liver damage, digestive problems, neurological/memory issues, and increased blood sugar levels, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. For a large portion of the population, these side effects far outweigh any benefits.
The Moral of the Story
Yes, cholesterol does play a role in heart disease. But if you want to get to the core of heart problems, then reducing inflammation in your body is the best place to start—not statin therapy.
You can reduce inflammation in your body by eating an anti-inflammatory diet (cutting back on sugar, high-fat dairy, trans fats, fried foods and refined carbohydrates, and eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fiber, lean proteins and fish); and taking anti-inflammatory supplements like fish oil, ginger, turmeric, quercetin and bromelain.
Larissa Long has worked in the health care communications field for more than 13 years. She co-authored a self-care book titled Taking Care, has written countless tip sheets and e-letters on health topics, and contributed several articles to Natural Solutions magazine. She also served as managing editor of three alternative health and lifestyle newsletters — Dr. Susan Lark’s Women’s Wellness Today, Dr. David Williams’ Alternatives, and Janet Luhrs’ Simple Living.