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More Statins - Is This A Good Idea?

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Last week, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued new cholesterol guidelines for prescribing cholesterol-lowering statins. 

The net result of these changes is that millions of more Americans will be medically "eligible" for statin therapy. 

Is this a good idea?

Background

The previous guidelines for prescribing statins are relatively simple. 

Basically, if you have a total cholesterol of 200 or more, and/or an LDL (or "bad" cholesterol) above 100, then you are a candidate for statins. 

Other drugs, such as niacin and fibrates are sometimes used to tackle elevated cholesterol levels, but studies show these other drugs do not reduce the chance of having a heart attack.

The New Guidelines

The big change with the new guidelines centers around the role statins can play in reducing the risk of a stroke AND reducing the chance of having a heart attack.

Mevastatin

Is this how you want to improve your health? (Photo credit: Wikipedia) 

Perhaps more surprising is that the guidelines move away from "hard" numbers, and instead include other factors, such as patient age, gender, history of smoking, and so forth. 

So the idea of managing a patient's health according to a particular lab value simply goes out the window. 

The net result is that the threshold for starting statin therapy is much lower than it was before. 

This could result in millions of more Americans taking statins. 

How many more?

Some estimates are that twice as many Americans (that's one third of all adults) would "qualify" for statin therapy under these new guidelines. 

That's a lot of extra medication!

Is This A Good Idea?

There's no question that statins are very effective drugs. 

Countless lives have been saved by these drugs, thanks to their ability to reduce the risk of having a heart attack and a stroke. 

However, statins are not without their side effects, ranging from a loss of energy to muscle pain and fatigue. 

Other statin side effects include decreased cognitive function, increased risk for diabetes, increased risk of developing cataracts, and many others. 

Some of these side effects can be countered by taking a good CoQ10 supplement

In fact, in Canada, physicians routinely (and strongly) recommend CoQ10 supplements for all of their statin patients. 

The other problem with statins is that they can serve as a crutch for people who choose to improve their health by popping prescription pills, rather than slowly shifting their lifestyle towards one focused on healthy living. 

Now that leading statins are available as low-cost generics, and fully covered by insurance, there is no question that millions more Americans will take statins...and suffer the side effects as a result. 

There's no question that physicians will continue to be told to tell their patients to diet and exercise. But how many doctors have the time to advise and monitor their patients diet and exercise habits?

What Should I Do?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. If you doctor is concerned about your cholesterol, your Body Mass Index, and/or your heart health, focus on developing a good diet and exercise plan that's right for you. Keep in mind that doctors are not always the best at making dietary and exercise recommendations, so don't be bashful about asking for a referral to a dietician. 

2. If you must take a statin, we urge you to start taking a CoQ10 supplement along with it. It's what the Canadians are doing, and we should follow their lead. 

3. The statin should be a short-term fix for a longer-term issue. If diet and exercise and healthy living are what are needed, then those should be the focus, not the cheap statin that can cause a number of dangerous side effects.