Statin drugs are widely believed to prevent heart attacks and save lives. Often overlooked, however, are the dangers of statins—and the fact that these prescription drugs are inappropriately doled out to millions of unsuspecting patients.
No symptoms? No history of heart disease? No problem. You don’t even have to have a high cholesterol level to get a prescription for a cholesterol-lowering drug. If you’re 40-75 years old and you have diabetes, hypertension, or smoke, plus a 7.5-10 percent or greater risk of having a heart attack within 10 years (determined by calculations that many believe overestimate risk), you’ll join 56 million other Americans—half of everyone over age 40—who qualify for the “statin club.”
Shedding Light on the Dangers of Statins
I’m not the only doctor who recognizes the dangers of statins and the absurdity of this unwarranted infatuation. Cardiologist Rita Redberg, MD, editor of JAMA Internal Medicine, recently wrote, “Of 100 people who take a statin for 5 years, only 2 of 100 will avoid a myocardial infarction, and 98 of the 100 will not experience any benefit. There will be no mortality benefit for any of the 100 people taking the medicine every day for 5 years. At the same time, 5 to 20 of the 100 will experience muscle aches, weakness, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and increased risk of diabetes. All will have to take a pill every day, and they and their health plans will pay for these medications.”
As for saving lives, you may have heard that statins reduce risk of death by 20-30 percent, but that’s just statistical spin. A recent analysis of the major clinical trials found that taking a statin every day for five years postponed death by a “surprisingly small” average of 3.2-4.1 days.
Dr. Redberg concluded her editorial with this advice: “Given the serious concerns about the harms of the reliance on statins for primary prevention, it is in the interest of public health and the medical community to refocus efforts on promoting a heart-healthy diet, regular physical activity, and not smoking.”
Bottom line, there’s a good chance your doctor will recommend a statin. But remember that the primary beneficiary of these guidelines is Big Pharma, which already reaps the spoils of a $20 billion per year global statin market.
How to Lower Cholesterol Safely
Now that you know the dangers of statins, let’s focus on how to lower cholesterol safely. As Dr. Redberg noted, lifestyle measures go a long way toward keeping cholesterol levels in check. The following four tips can help you lower cholesterol safely and naturally—without dangerous drugs.
Lower Cholesterol Tip #1: Eat Apples
Everyone’s familiar with the 150-year-old proverb, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well, it turns out that apples may be able to keep cholesterol-lowering statin drugs away as well. According to a paper published in the prestigious journal BMJ, if doctors “prescribed” an apple a day to all adults over the age of 50 in the UK, approximately 8,500 annual vascular deaths (heart attacks and strokes) could be prevented or delayed. This outcome is similar to that of statin drugs, which studies claim could potentially stave off 9,400 deaths per year.
This tongue-in-cheek paper is entertaining reading—but it’s also based on real scientific data that illustrates the dangers of statins and the tremendous power of nutrition and diet changes. The researchers predicted this degree of statin usage would lead to thousands of new diagnoses of type 2 diabetes, myopathy, and rhabdomyolysis every year. The “side effects” of apples, on the other hand, include better digestion, reduced appetite, antioxidant support, protection against chronic disease—and, of course, lower cholesterol.
Lower Cholesterol Tip #2: Exercise Regularly
When it comes to natural ways to lower cholesterol safely, regular exercise is up there on the list. Why? Because physical activity can help people lose weight. Overweight individuals tend to have higher levels of “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is linked to cardiovascular disease and other health concerns. Therefore, staying fit and active helps keep harmful lipids in check.
Furthermore, exercise has been proven to elevate levels of protective high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week to help maintain a lower cholesterol level.
Lower Cholesterol Tip #3: Add Flaxseed
Flaxseed is another effective way to lower cholesterol safely. Over the years, we’ve seen some pretty dramatic results. James’ cholesterol fell from 288 to 232 in two weeks, then down to 188 over six months, and Beverly’s decreased from 307 to 206 in less than six months. Flaxseed works on several fronts to normalize cholesterol. In addition to being an excellent source of fiber, it contains an abundance of omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), which have multiple cardiovascular benefits, including lowering blood fats. It is also abundant in lignans, unique plant compounds that protect against cancer, free-radical damage, and atherosclerosis.
To lower cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health in general, incorporate ¼-cup of flaxseed in your daily diet. I recommend buying whole flaxseed and grinding it in a coffee grinder just before using. You can mix it in water or smoothies (stir and drink quickly, because it thickens as it sits), or sprinkle on yogurt or salads.
Lower Cholesterol Tip #4: Take Bergamot
Bergamot is a type of citrus native to Southern Italy. Rich in polyphenols that suppress cholesterol production in the liver, studies suggest bergamot is as effective as statin drugs in lowering LDL and total cholesterol. But it has another unique attribute: Bergamot also raises protective HDL cholesterol.
Italian researchers gave patients who had high cholesterol daily doses of bergamot extract (500 mg or 1,000 mg) for one month. When they retested them, the average LDL cholesterol level fell by 37-39 percent, HDL increased by 38-43 percent, and triglycerides were reduced by 38-42 percent. Bergamot also has positive effects on arterial health, insulin sensitivity, and blood sugar levels, making it an excellent supplement not only for elevated cholesterol but also for other aspects of metabolic syndrome.
Lower Cholesterol Recap
Being informed about the dangers of statins and armed with natural ways to lower cholesterol safely is your best bet for overcoming problems with cholesterol. If you need more help, consider coming to see us at Whitaker Wellness. Fill out this form for a free consultation or call 866-944-8253 to learn how we can assist you.