Statins have provoked debate in the news lately. If you need to lower your cholesterol and have no pre-existing heart condition, Statins can now be prescribed to you too. New guidelines in the UK and US are highly controversial. The previous view was more restrictive, but now physicians are recommended to prescribe Statins more aggressively to combat bad cholesterol, prevent future heart disease and stroke. Statins are effective in combination with lifestyle changes for people with pre-existing heart conditions — the controversial issue is why over a billion people could be taking Statins when they have no pre-existing heart conditions? The new guidelines have provoked serious debate as healthier lifestyle changes could be a better alternative. This post looks at what Statins are, its side effects and lifestyle change alternatives for those with no pre-existing heart condition.
What is Statins?
Statins are a class of medicines that lower cholesterol levels. Whilst we do need cholesterol for normal cell and body functions, so-called bad LDL cholesterol will clog up and harden the arteries and potentially provoke heart problems (cardio vascular disease). Statins lower the level of LDL cholesterol by reducing the production of it in the liver. Notably, you can also lower the level of cholesterol through lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy, balanced diet; reducing and maintaining a healthy weight; and doing regular physical activity.
Statins: Side effects
The side effects of Statins are many and well documented, and the reason why the recent medical news is so controversial. Whilst few argue the effect of Statins for those with pre-existing heart conditions, the new guidelines suggest, according to the BBC Medical News: ‘Effectively every healthy man over 60 – or woman over 65 – could be offered statins.’ and ‘Those with high cholesterol, smokers, the obese or with a strong family history of heart problems could be offered the drugs at an even younger age.’
Statins come with side effects that are not highlighted enough, and that many Doctors seem to minimize them, according to the AmericanScientist.org:
‘Memory loss, insomnia, numbness in the fingers and toes, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, vision impairment and several dozen other conditions that surfaced in the studies are rarely blamed on statins when they occur outside clinical trials, the report said. Muscle and liver damage are the best-known side effects. But even then, too many doctors dismiss muscle soreness, pain and weakness as symptoms linked to other factors such as aging, the review concluded.’
New findings, according to the University of Bristol, increase the question around Statins as memory impairment is proven to be a side effect of a commonly prescribed statin, and could lead to misdiagnosis in older patients.
Statins: Do they work?
Statins do reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in people without pre-existing heart disease. However, the effect is far less than most people assume. In this article on chriskressner.com, Dr. Newman’s research and analysis are reviewed. Dr. Newman analyzed the effect of Statin taking people with no pre-existing heart condition. His revealing and somewhat surprising research showed that after 5 years on Statins:
98% saw no benefit at all
1.6% (1 in 60) were helped by preventing a heart attack
0.4% (1 in 268) were helped by preventing a stroke
1.5% (1 in 67) were harmed by developing diabetes
10% (1 in 10) were harmed by muscle damage
With the above numbers in mind, would you not consider alternative methods that come with no side effects?
Statins: Lifestyle Changes as an Alternative
For people who already take Statins, lifestyle changes are often recommended as research shows that the combination of taking the medicine, with lifestyle changes, is highly effective.
The controversy is the large group of potential future Statin takers. Instead of hopping on the band wagon of taking a drug every day of the rest of their lives, the cholesterol issue can be managed and lowered more effectively with simple and effective lifestyle changes.
Step by step changes make a huge difference. Instead of a daily pill, I took a decision to change some aspects of my life. I started walking, taking the stairs, enjoyed Pilates, avoided processed foods and had more fruits, vegetables, grains, and yogurt.
If you are overweight with a high level of LDL cholesterol, you are, with the new guidelines a candidate for Statins. The option can be to take a decision that makes you feel, be and do good.
The way you eat, drink, exercise and health promoting steps like swap processed foods for natural cholesterol lowering produce from Mother Nature. If you need great tips you can check out: Statin Alternatives on naturalhealthmag.com. Of course, you should discuss any lifestyle changes with your Doctor, to make sure they fit your health condition.
Statins: Where You Live
Another reason to why you may be a potential Statin taker is because of where you live. If you live in the UK or the US, you are more likely to be prompted to get Statins than if you live in say, Sweden or Italy – where national guidelines prescribe lifestyle changes before statins.
In our small village in Italy, our local Doctor is very proud of his success in making patients change from potential Statin takers to Health promoters. Instead of pills, he prescribes a healthy Mediterranean diet, with controlled portions of bread and pasta. The diet is combined with regular visits to the gym, walking as much as possible, and more water than wine. Our Doctor has seen that the results have the desired effect in lowering cholesterol in patients with no pre-existing heart conditions. This prompted him to organize a special discount for all his patients at the local gym. Every Tuesday and Thursday a happy group of seniors (mostly) works out on the treadmills, gym machines, and low weight lifting. They compare cholesterol levels while discussing local politics – and month by month they are pleased to report their improved health numbers and increasing displeasure with the politicians :).
Statins and Lifestyle
A simple lifestyle change method that makes sense, and is easy to follow is what most municipalities in Sweden offer their citizens: Grains, greens, less processed foods, regular exercise, walking as well as no smoking, and less alcohol. Local municipalities have concentrated their efforts on schools and public work places. Education for the young, and health prevention methods as a tool to lower health costs, and increase public awareness of how to prevent bad health through healthy balanced lifestyle choices.
Are You at Risk?
If your Doctor advises you to take Statins, and you are not already diagnosed with a heart condition you may wish to ask yourself if there are alternatives.
Statin use has been associated with a wide range of side effects, including myopathy (muscle pain), liver damage, cataracts, kidney failure, cognitive impairment, impotence, and diabetes. With these in mind, looking for options is a natural and sound reaction, is it not?
- Talk to your Doctor about the possible changes to your lifestyle as an option before taking a daily drug for the rest of your life. Doctors can have differing views, and sometimes seeking a second opinion may be a good idea.
- Did you know that cinnamon, psyllium, and artichoke are natural foods that lower cholesterol? By changing diet, adding natural supplements and combining it with exercise you can lower your cholesterol levels. Your Doctor will be able to tell you if the cholesterol lowering efforts are working, and if the initial advice to take Statins may be postponed – or even avoided.
Healthy Lifestyle Changes Key
If you have a pre-existing heart condition Statins may be the only way to combat your disease combined with a healthier lifestyle. However, the side effects of Statins are well documented and serious, and if you have no heart problems – lifestyle changes can have great success when looking at lowering cholesterol.
The question is whether changes to your lifestyle can lower your cholesterol levels enough? It depends on how high your levels are and what your doctor has set as your goal.
As someone who has beaten a prognosis of future heart disease, by changing lifestyle, losing weight (50 kg), going from sedentary to fitness foodie and exercise devotee – I can tell you that I would rather walk, eat greens and practice Pilates for the rest of my life than take a drug with so many potential side effects.
The GOODista team are not medical practitioners, nor scientists. We promote healthy lifestyle changes — and suggest here that a sharp turn to a more aggressive health prevention education before prescription of Statins – for those with no pre-existing heart conditions – is desirable given the very severe side effects of Statins. Where do you stand – and what do you think?
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Recommended & Related:
- Wellness and Career Coaching – thegoodista.com
- New Guidelines on Statins for low-risk patients – BBC News
- Alternatives to Statins – newsmaxhealth.com
- Can Statins Save Your Life? – aarp.org
- Is the Doctor always right? 2 Doctors on Statins – BBC.co.uk
- Heart and Health Treatments – bhf.org.uk
- Cholesterol Management – WebMD
- Statins and Memory Impairment – Science Daily
- Statins for Kidney Disease Patients – American Society of Nephrology
- Click on the Images below to find out more from Amazon.co.uk:
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