Conventional medicine just doesn't get it. For years they've pushed statins on anyone who had cholesterol above their so-called dangerous level. However, they've never been able to prove that statins could, in fact, prevent heart attacks. They don't, unless you've already had a heart attack and you're a middle-aged man. In these cases, it "might" help. But they don't know for sure. And the number of middle-aged men who have suffered a heart attack is a very small number of people compared to those using statins.
Now conventional medicine wants to put more people on statins. This time, they really don't care how high your cholesterol is. In fact, Dr. Steven Nissen, chief of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, says you can "ignore the numbers." The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology now want doctors to look at your risk factors for a heart attack. The thinking is that these somewhat subjective risk factors will respond better to statins - and they can stop heart attacks.
Instead of looking at your cholesterol numbers, doctors now have to look at these questions: Do you have heart disease? Do you have diabetes (Type 1 or 2)? Do you have a bad cholesterol level more than 190? And is your 10-year risk of a heart attack greater than 7.5%?
If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, your doctor will pull out his prescription pad and force statins on you. This is going to double the number of people taking statins.
But let's look at each of these questions. First, there's no evidence that statins will prevent a heart attack in people with heart disease. Again, there's only one group of people who might benefit and that is a small group. It doesn't include everyone with heart disease. There aren't any studies suggesting statins prevent heart attacks for those who have heart disease, but have yet to suffer a heart attack. The same is true for diabetes. There's no evidence that statins will prevent a first heart attack in diabetics.
If you have a "bad" cholesterol level over 190, that's a sure signal of a coming heart attack, right? Not so fast. The only "bad" cholesterol is oxidized cholesterol, not just LDL. And conventional medicine doesn't test for oxidized cholesterol. So a high LDL number doesn't have any predictive ability.
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Finally, what's your 10-year risk of having a heart attack? It's an equation your doctor has to calculate. Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, chairman of the committee that developed the equation, said, "We were able to generate very robust risk equations for both non-Hispanic white men and women as well as African-American men and women. Those equations factor in age, sex, race, total and HDL ('good') cholesterol levels, blood pressure levels, blood pressure treatment status as well as diabetes and current smoking status." Apparently they don't have an equation for Hispanic or Asian men and women. But it doesn't matter. This "simple" equation might be simple for your doctor, but it takes the statin decision completely out of your hands. You now have to trust your doctor's math skills.
The reality is these new guidelines will do nothing more to prevent heart attacks or death than the current guidelines (which are pretty worthless). They will only further enrich the drug companies.
One article I read said this will mean a downturn in drug company business because most statins are now generic. That's ludicrous! Do the math. The number of people taking statins will double. An additional 36 million people taking statins at $40/year. That's an additional $1.44 billion going to the drug companies and the pharmacies. That doesn't include the profits they will undoubtedly make from their patented formulas, such as Zetia.
As far as what you should do about high cholesterol, nothing has changed. Most people just don't need to worry about it - especially if you're over 70. Studies show that lowering cholesterol in this group does more damage than good. If you're under 70, make lifestyle changes to lower your cholesterol. This includes eating more veggies, getting plenty (but not too much) exercise, and avoid smoking and other lifestyle habits that can increase your cholesterol. If that's not enough, you can take supplements to lower your cholesterol, such as those in Advanced Cholesterol Formula. Most people don't need to do anything but live a healthy lifestyle - and ignore these new cholesterol guidelines.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.