Although my other labs are in “normal” ranges, my physician informed me that the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) is very high at 202 mg/dl. He said I should start statin drug therapy to lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke and he issued a prescription for atorvastatin (Lipitor). This is troubling considering the known risks of these drugs and the fact that no science indicates that high cholesterol causes heart disease. Unfortunately, the doctor is probably just following his organization’s protocol. According to Mayo Clinic, LDL should be lower than 100 mg/dL (1).
Adverse effects of statins include cognitive and memory problems, muscle cramps, general weakness, impaired walking, numbness, and weakening of the immune system. Based only on these considerations, I will not take statins.
If you have a statin prescription, learn the benefits and risks yourself. Don’t blindly join the millions who spend over $30 billion per year to lower cholesterol for no benefit. Unless medical professionals you use can provide compelling evidence for you to take these drugs, their credibility, and the credibility of the organization they work for, is suspect.
You can easily find authoritative scientific evidence that support statements I make in this post. A great place to start is the following book that references many of the largest studies. All doctors and anyone given a statin prescription should read The Great Cholesterol Myth by nutritionist Dr. Jonny Bowden and cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra.
A concerning aspect of my doctor’s recommendation is that it is based on LDL cholesterol level. Sure, statins lower LDL, but there is seldom reason to do so. There is no correlation between higher cholesterol levels and cardio vascular disease (CVD) risk. In fact, many studies show an inverse correlation between LDL numbers and risk. The chart below illustrates an example.
This was a sizable study with nearly 137,000 data points. If LDL level matters at all, I would not want it to be at the average level of 116 mg/dL and I certainly would not want it to be less. In fact, risk CVD risk seems to increase as LDL decreases below 160 mg/dL.
Low LDL does correlate with dementia, which is not too surprising considering how essential cholesterol is for brain health. In fact, 25 percent of the body’s cholesterol is in the human brain. Statins lower brain cholesterol.
Factors known to cause CVD are…
2. excessive alcohol consumption
3. lack of exercise
5. sugar, omega-6 vegetable oils, and low fiber foods.
This information comes from the Nurses’ Health Study by Harvard University, where 82 percent of coronary events were attributed to these five factors (not LDL).
My triglyceride measures low at 45 mg/dl mainly because I avoid sugars and processed carbohydrates. Since I eat a low-carb diet, excessive glycation and resulting inflammation that comes from high blood sugar is unlikely. Factors such as these should be considered when statins are prescribed instead of dispensing them based only on LDL level. Medical protocols need to be supported by science, but prescriptions for statins based only on LDL level are only the result of a consensus of opinion.
You don’t have to look far back in history for examples of consensus of opinion not working well for advancement of health. Examples include the “artery-clogging” saturated fat myth, a calorie is a calorie, and the belief that trans fats are safe. Cholesterol myths are more complicated, but the idea that prescribing drugs for anyone with high LDL is good preventative medicine may someday be seen in the same category.
A metric that does correlate with CVD risk is triglyceride to HDL cholesterol ratio. My TG/HDL ratio is 45/66, which equates to 0.68 (low risk). Most people can keep this ratio low through a low-carb diet and exercise. By now, that’s mainstream health knowledge.
Here is an informative article with more about the TG/HDL ratio from Professor Grant Schofield:
Statin drugs reduce the body’s levels of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) – an essential nutrient found in almost every cell in the body and one that is critical for heart health. In fact, the largest concentration of CoQ10 is in heart muscle. Depletion of CoQ10 may have something to do with the adverse effects of statins that involve impaired muscles.
The physician that prescribed statins for me explicitly categorized LDL as “bad” cholesterol. That’s a common thing to do, but it makes no sense. The body makes LDL because it is essential to human life. No test was done to assess whether my LDL includes high levels of the small-particle type of LDL (LDL-B) that can be easily oxidized and cause inflammation. However, the fact that my triglyceride is low is a strong indicator that the LDL is mostly LDL-A, which is not prone to oxidation and inflammation.
From High Triglycerides – How to Lower Triglycerides by Axel F. Sigurdsson MD:
Small dense LDL particles appear more strongly associated with the risk of cardiovascular events than larger particles (2,3). In the SCRIP trial, high triglyceride levels were associated small, dense particles in 90 percent of subjects whereas lower triglyceride levels were associated with larger buoyant particles in 90 percent of subjects (4).
Other indicators of my cardiovascular health include blood pressure, which measured 120/80 and my VLDL that tested at a low 9 mg/dl. My blood tests revealed no information that scientifically indicate I have unusual risk for CVD and I have not had symptoms of heart disease. Without threatening existing symptoms (like a heart attack), drugs should not be used for a condition that can be helped with diet and lifestyle.
Statins never result in significant improvement to longevity and they are toxic. They degrade health in many ways, sometimes causing death. These drugs can be useful for middle-aged men with symptoms of low HDL cholesterol and heart disease. I am at the upper end of middle-aged (60+), my HDL is not low, and I do not have heart disease so prescribing statins for me was clearly very wrong.
The medical industry generally excels in care for acute problems, but incidence of CVD continues to worsen as use of sugar, vegetable oils, and statin drugs increase. Excessive drug use that is happening now will someday be seen as a travesty. I’m sure future generations will learn to use the information that is now easily available to reverse the modern chronic disease epidemics of dementia, diabetes, and heart disease. This will happen mostly through healthy nutrition and reduction of unnecessary drug use.
(1) Mayo Clinic staff article: Statins: Are these cholesterol-lowering drugs right for you?
(2) JAMA. 1996 Sep 18;276(11):882-8.
A prospective study of triglyceride level, low-density lipoprotein particle diameter, and risk of myocardial infarction. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8782637
(3) JAMA. 1998 Jun 24;279(24):1955-61.
Fasting insulin and apolipoprotein B levels and low-density lipoprotein particle size as risk factors for ischemic heart disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9643858
(4) Circulation. 1996 Nov 1;94(9):2146-53.
Predominance of dense low-density lipoprotein particles predicts angiographic benefit of therapy in the Stanford Coronary Risk Intervention Project. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8901665