An interesting article from the BBC a couple of weeks back titled “Keep Taking Statins” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-27634000. A powerful message that will no doubt put peoples mind at rest who are taking statins and worried about doing so. But should people be continually taking these drugs when there are some simple nutritional changes that will reverse any cholesterol issues they have.
Not for one minute am I doubting or questioning the benefits of Statins for the people that really need them nor I am I against the medical professions that dedicate their life to keeping people fit and healthy, they have my upmost respect and admiration. My concern is not everybody taking statins needs to be. In short, Statins are prescribed to control cholesterol in your blood, and doctors like to control this number because they believe that high Cholesterol is to blame for heart disease, but we are seeing more and more evidence against this theory, even Dr Oz, the one time condemner of saturated fat because of its apparent effect on cholesterol, is changing his mind. Watch his U-turn on thinking here http://youtu.be/dw2WKOENFLQ. Dr Oz’s simple demonstration reinforces the evidence we are now seeing that inflammation (the damage to the artery) is the villain in heart disease and not cholesterol.
With that said we shouldn’t be ignoring our cholesterol figures as high numbers are caused by something that our bodies do not like and this gives us the opportunity to address that cause before reaching for the statin bottle. Addressing the cause will be much better for your health. So let’s have a simple look at cholesterol for a minute and what you want to be seeing and what you want to be asking your doctor before you start taking statins.
Cholesterol is produced by the liver and is one of the most important molecules in the body. Every cell in your body needs cholesterol and without it you would simply die. So with cholesterol being so essential for life wouldn’t you want to ask your doctor some more questions before you start taking the drugs that stop the liver producing it.
If we take my own experience as an example then doctors will prescribe Statins on your overall serum cholesterol number. The trouble with this is that your overall cholesterol number is a meaningless figure. Your lipid profile or lipid panel is the general means of measuring your blood cholesterol, this breaks down your cholesterol into LDL, HDL and Triglycerides and the overall number is calculation of these three.
If your doctor says you have high cholesterol and need to start taking statins then you want to be seeing your lipid profile/lipid panel at the very least. Once you have your lipid panel results the numbers you want to be looking at are your HDL and Triglycerides, ideally you want these to be on a 1 to 1 ratio. If your Triglycerides are high with your HDL low this isn’t ideal and you need to address what is causing this. The normal cause will be excessive carbohydrates, start by cutting out any processed carbohydrates in your diet, this includes sugary drinks, ready meals, pastries and even breakfast cereal. Replace these lost calories with good quality fats, avocados, olives, coconut oil and raw nuts (don’t panic here, fat isn’t a villain either, but that’s a whole other discussion). Reducing the starchy carbs in bread is also a good idea. Get retested and see how your numbers are looking.
If your doctor still insists on statins then there are some more tests that can be done to assess your risk. One of the tests breaks down your cholesterol even more than the standard lipid panel. This test is called a particle size test and will identify the actually number of undesirable VLDL in your blood rather than just LDL being a calculation as in the standard lipid panel. You want the VLDL number to be as small as possible. It is the VLDL particulars that get stuck in the inflammation in your arteries. Another test to seek out is a CRP test (C-reactive protein test), this test shows if you have any inflammation in your body, if no inflammation is present then there is an argument that says do you even need to worry about your cholesterol. There is also a scan called CIMT scan, this is a scan that identifies if there is any plaque build-up on the walls of the arteries and indicates your cardiovascular risk.
I must reiterate that I am not condemning the use of statins for people that need them or medical professionals prescribing them but in my opinion there does need to be more dialog with doctors on this issue before people start needlessly popping pills. I hope this helps people open up that dialog and take control of their health.
Nutrition is key in the topic of cholesterol as with other aspects of health. Make the right choices and reap the rewards to your health.