Part 1: The High
According to the CDC heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, accounting for approximately 25% of all deaths. In 2010 coronary heart disease alone cost the United States 108.9Billion dollars(1). In 2010 Lipitor was the number 1 selling prescription drug in the United States with sales over 7 Billion dollars(5).
But is high cholesterol really to blame like we have been lead to believe? Is a Lipitor deficiency really the culprit behind these heart disease related deaths, or is something else at play here? That’s not to say that statins such as Lipitor don’t do a good job of lowering the so-called “bad cholesterol”, in fact, they do a darn good job of it. However, they do nothing for correcting the underlying physiology that caused the high cholesterol in the first place. If your car was speeding out of control and you wanted to bring it to a stop, would you put a foot on the breaks, or take the foot off the gas? Of course anyone in their right mind would do both, but you get my point. Statins put a “brake” on your body’s ability to make cholesterol, but do nothing to take your foot off the proverbial “gas”. Only dietary and lifestyle changes can do that, my friends.
So what are you to do if you are among the one of six Americans(2) who have high cholesterol?
1. Ask your doctor to check other heart-disease related markers. Half of all people who suffer a heart attack have normal cholesterol, so this is a good idea even if you don’t think you are at risk. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is an inflammatory process, so monitor your body’s inflammatory load with tests such as C-Reactive Protein (CRP), Homocysteine, and Omega 6: Omega 3 ratio. If most of us took a good, hard look at ourselves I bet we would admit that we’re probably inflamed but seeing the test results in black and white makes it almost impossible to ignore.
2. Make lifestyle and dietary changes to dampen inflammation. Cut out the crappy processed foods- Really. We all know they’re not good for us, even if the shiny label boasts claims such as “33% more fiber” or “reduced fat”. Eat more vegetables (Fresh, ideally, but frozen will do in a pinch). Play outside more. Drink water. Take supplements such as Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Curcumin that will pump up your body’s antioxidant stores.
3. If you and your doctor decide to try a statin ask questions such as:
1) Is this particular statin the right choice for me? Why are they prescribing this one as opposed to another one? Make sure you ask this question if you are put on Crestor. Crestor is the strongest of the statin family and has a bad reputation for causing more side-effects than it’s milder counter-parts(3).
2) How much do you need to drop your LDL? In most cases, people only need a 20-30% reduction in LDL, which can be accomplished with much smaller doses than are typically prescribed. For example, the manufacture’s recommended starting doses for Lipitor are 10, 20 and 40 mg however, the 2.5 mg dose reduces LDL by 20-25%(3).
3) Know the side-effects of the drug you are on. Statins cause side-effects in an alarming amount of people- up to 42% of people taking them(3). Among the most alarming (and common) are liver and heart damage (4). Ask your doctor to monitor your liver and muscle with tests such as LDH, AST, ALT, Bilirubin, BUN, and GGTP.
4) Take CoQ10 daily. CoQ10 is an antioxidant that is found in the mitochondria of your cells, and is depleted by statin drugs. It is involved in energy production in the electron transport chain- a process that happens in the inner membrane of the mitochondria of your cells and is absolutely critical for ATP production. Because the enzyme that is inhibited by statin drugs is relatively early in the process of cholesterol synthesis, decreasing activity of this enzyme also inhibits the formation of other down-stream molecules such as CoQ10.
4. Ask your doctor to test your Apo E geneotype. This so-called “Alzheimer’s gene” dictates how your body uses fuel (carbs, protein and fats), and may have more to do with your cholesterol levels than once thought. For more information on this “perfect gene diet” visit http://perfectgenediet.com/apoe_gene_diet.
More to come soon.
Stay healthy, planet Earth.
If you or somebody you know is interested in working with a functional medicine doctor please call my office at (919) 238-4094 and see if we are the right fit for you. Infinity Holistic Healthcare is located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, part of the Raleigh-Durham “triangle” area.References:
(3) What You Must Know About Statin Drugs and Their Natural Alternatives by Jay S. Cohen, MD