Statins Increase Risk of Heart Failure
Julian Whitaker, MD
Elevated LDL cholesterol is a widely accepted risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and the purpose of cholesterol-lowering drugs is obviously to prevent heart disease. These medications make sense—until you realize that the runaway best-sellers in their class, statins like Lipitor, Crestor, and Zocor, actually weaken the heart.
Statin drugs reduce cholesterol levels by blocking an enzyme pathway called HMG-CoA reductase that is involved in cholesterol synthesis in the liver. Unfortunately, this is the same pathway the body uses to produce coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a vital compound required in the generation of cellular energy. Studies show that CoQ10 levels decrease by 40–50 percent after just one or two months on a statin, and this decline adversely affects every system in your body. Most severely impacted are the organs with the greatest energy needs, including the heart. When the heart’s energy stores run low, it cannot pump efficiently, so it’s no surprise that CoQ10 deficiencies are linked to heart failure. A low blood level of CoQ10 is also an independent predictor of death in patients with cardiovascular disease.
Nevertheless, conventional medicine is so infatuated with statins that lipid-lowering agents are our leading therapeutic class of prescription drugs, with annual sales approaching $28 billion. But that’s not enough for the insatiable drug pushers. They’re now foisting statins on people who have normal cholesterol levels and no evidence of heart disease!
The driving force behind this is the JUPITER clinical trial. This study enrolled healthy people who were older than 50 (men) or 60 (women) and had an elevated C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) and plus one other cardiovascular risk factor (high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, smoking, or family history). They were divided into two groups and assigned to take either Crestor or a placebo. When the study was terminated after 1.9 years, among the 8,901 people in each group, 157 (1.8 percent) who’d taken a placebo had cardiovascular events (nonfatal heart attacks/strokes and death from cardiovascular causes) compared to 83 (0.9 percent) who’d been on Crestor.
Although the relative risk reduction (the difference between 1.8 and 0.9 percent) is an impressive-sounding 50 percent, the absolute risk reduction is a paltry 0.9 percent. The NNT to prevent one cardiovascular event is 120 people for 1.9 years—if this drug performs as it did in the study, and that’s a big “if,” given all the criticisms leveled at JUPITER concerning conflicts of interest. When you figure in the costs of wide CRP screening, additional physician visits, and drug purchases, it would cost more than $800,000 to prevent just one cardiovascular event. One, likely nonfatal, event!
Nevertheless, the FDA approved Crestor for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in healthy people who fit the JUPITER profile. Now, in addition to the 34 million Americans with high cholesterol, another 7 million people are deemed to be appropriate candidates for statin drugs. This is an extraordinary windfall for statin manufacturers—but a disaster for individuals who succumb to their propaganda. Don’t count on statin drugs to significantly reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke, but do be prepared to deal with muscle pain and weakness, liver damage, memory loss, immune suppression, and type 2 diabetes.
A safer, saner approach to preventing heart disease is to make lifestyle changes, lose weight, and start on a comprehensive nutritional supplement program that not only lowers cholesterol and reduces inflammation but also addresses other cardiovascular risk factors.
- If you are currently taking prescription drugs, work with your physician to replace them with safer alternatives such as niacin 500–2,000 mg daily (also elevates HDL and lowers triglycerides; high-dose niacin is best used under a physician’s care), and fiber (flaxseed, glucomannan, or psyllium) 30–35 g daily, including dietary fiber.
- To schedule an appointment at the Whitaker Wellness Institute to review your medications and develop a program of safe, effective therapies, call (866) 944-8253.
- Littarru GP, et al. Clinical aspects of coenzyme Q10: an update. Nutrition. 2010 Mar;26(3):250–254.
- Ridker PM, et al. Rosuvastatin to prevent vascular events in men and women with elevated C-reactive protein. N Engl J Med. 2008 Nov 20; 359:2195–2207.
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