Statins have always been a blockbuster drug for Big Pharma, and it’s estimated that an astonishing 1 in 3 Americans over the age of 50 are taking one — but apparently the makers of statin drugs are bound and determined to see that number dramatically increase.
In case you don’t remember, new statin guidelines presented by the American Heart Association last November essentially advise physicians to minimize the meaning of previous markers, such as cholesterol numbers and family history, and recommend statin drugs based primarily on other, more innocuous risk factors, such as weight, gender, race, diabetes status and smoking status (despite the fact that statins raise diabetes risk).
Now, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the revised guidelines could make up to 13 million more Americans “eligible” for statin drug “therapy”. This is in addition to the 32 million Americans who take them now. Big Pharma couldn’t be happier.
Maybe Everyone Should Just Take a Statin?!
These new recommendations shift the heart-health discussion in a disturbing direction. Not only do they ignore more sound, preventative measures, such as exercise and a healthy diet — which are rather elementary modifications known to reduce cardiac events and lower the risk for several other chronic diseases — they open the door to a very controversial scenario: Putting everyone on statins.
As crazy as it sounds, some so-called experts think this plan sounds like a brilliant idea. For example, Dr. David Agus, Professor of Medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, posits that everyone over the age of 40 should consider statin drugs, even if there is no present risk factor suggesting a need. In an interview with CNN, Dr. Agus noted that “inflammation is driving a number of aging-related conditions, both in the body and brain, and since studies have shown that statins are a powerful way to dampen the inflammatory response, more people might be living longer if they take advantage of statins.”
While I would agree that inflammation is driving a number of conditions, no health conscious individual can honestly think that more statin drugs are the solution.
The Ludicrous Notion That More People Should Be on Statins
With evidence mounting that statins are not the “wonder drugs” Big Pharma made them out to be, the last thing we need is MORE people on statins. In fact, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that for every 10,000 people on statins, there were only 271 fewer cases of heart disease. In other words, less than 3% of people get any benefit, and the rest just get risks and complications associated with statin use. This has actually led some experts to say that 99 out of 100 people who take statins don’t even need them
But, efficacy and “expert” opinions aside, statin drugs are FAR from harmless. Within days of taking a statin, users typically experience fatigue, aches and pains, general muscle soreness and headaches. Many suffer memory loss, weakness, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, liver problems…or worse. According to the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen, “Statins have killed and injured more people than the government has acknowledged.”
Part of the problem is that by blocking cholesterol production in the liver, statins also block the production of key hormones, as well as CoQ10. As I’ve often written, statins drain your body’s natural stores of CoQ10, which your heart and brain need to stay healthy. Low CoQ10 levels are the reason so many statin users suffer from things like ongoing fatigue, muscle pain, weakness and memory loss.
As integrative cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra wrote in his response to the issuing of the new statin guidelines:
“Statins are already overused in many population groups, with risks that far outweigh the rewards. What’s also important to remember is that the data does not strongly suggest statins improve longevity even though they reduce cardiovascular events.
My opinion of statins remains exactly the same. Statins should only be used in populations that get the most reward—which is middle-aged men with diagnosed coronary artery disease, those with familial hypercholesterolemia, and perhaps a minimal percentage of women. Plus, remember that there’s no data to suggest statins will improve longevity even in people with cardiovascular disease—so I would never recommend using statins as primary prevention.
Every patient is different, and prescribing a drug with an enormous side-effect profile based on an algorithm concept is, frankly, poor medicine. Doctors need to treat individuals with smart medicine—not guidelines, numbers, and unproven myths and dogma.”
So What Will the New Landscape for Statin Recommendation Look Like?
Health care providers will be directed to use the 2013 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Assessment of Cardiovascular Risk, which comes complete with a rather complicated CV risk calculator (you can find a link to the calculator below).
Ignoring the riskiness associated with statin drug use, the CV risk calculator considers only gender, age, cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes status and smoking status. It does not factor diet, activity level or family history.
Your Age, Not Your Health, Might Soon Land You on Statins
If you’ve heard that the new recommendations place too much emphasis on age, then I regret to inform you that you heard correctly.
In an effort to familiarize myself with risk calculator, I tested a few scenarios, changing nothing but my age. With numbers in acceptable ranges for all other risk factors, at age 41 I was advised to be wary of my lifetime cardiovascular risk. At age 68, I was classified as having borderline heart health risks. But change my age to 70 and I should be on a statin drug, despite the fact that all of my other numbers are within healthy ranges.
It’s important to remember two things: One, this calculator does not consider your actual health status, and two, this calculator is going to be used in real life to recommend potentially dangerous drugs.
Do Your Heart a Favor — Try Natural Options First
Research has shown that cholesterol imbalance is not the only risk factor when it comes to heart health, and that a more comprehensive approach is the best long-term solution. The best things you can do for your heart are to exercise, eat well and manage stress. However, making lifestyle changes is often easier said than done. That’s why I recommend specific dietary supplements as part of a comprehensive heart health strategy. CoQ10, resveratrol, pine bark extract, omega-3s, vitamin D3 and B vitamins are among my top picks for overall heart protection. I urge you to consider adding a few of these preventative heart health nutrients to your daily regimen, too!
Joshua Corn – Editor-in-Chief
Josh is a health freedom advocate and veteran of the natural health industry. He has been actively involved in the natural health movement for over 15 years, and has been dedicated to the promotion of health, vitality, longevity and natural living throughout his career. Josh has successfully overcome several personal health challenges through natural means, and believes that sharing information can empower people to take control of their health so they can solve their own problems and live life to its fullest potential. Josh is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Live in the Now. Additionally he serves as CEO of Stop Aging Now, a company that has been formulating premium dietary supplements since 1995. Josh is currently working on his first book about natural health, and is gearing up to launch the Live in the Now radio show. In addition to his work in the natural health field, Josh is an avid outdoorsman, animal lover and enjoys “living in the now” with his wife and two sons.