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Cholesterol Lowering Statin Drugs

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Do cholesterol lowering statin drugs such as lipitor and crestor help prevent heart attacks in healthy people? Surprisingly, even if millions are on these drugs there doesn’t seem to be a simple yes or no answer.

According to recent statistics, somewhere around 15 million Americans are now taking cholesterol lowering statin drugs like Lipitor and crestor, to get their LDL levels down making them the best-selling class of drugs on the market. It may seem somewhat alarming, but If the latest US guidelines are followed, more than 40 million soon will be taking statins.

Perhaps no other class of drug has undergone such scrutiny before and many clinical trials and medical studies have been done based on statins. There is no question that these drugs effectively lower bad LDL cholesterol. But the real question is whether they are able to actually reduce the risk of heart disease and improve the quality and quantity of life in people taking them.

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Recently, medical articles are appearing in specialized journals suggesting that LDL cholesterol isn’t as bad as in commonly thought. Other aspects such as inflammation, poor lifestyle habits and cluster of risk factors are being looked at with an accusing eye. Every day we are becoming more overweight or obese, we pay little attention to the health aspects of our diet and we avoid exercise if we can. However, if our cholesterol is high we don’t think twice about taking medication to get it down.

Are cholesterol lowing statin drugs really the answer

Of all the people currently taking a statin type drugs, only about one-quarter have heart disease or diabetes. There does however seem to be a general consensus that statin drugs can and do decrease the risk of death in people from this group. The benefits simply outweigh the possible side-effects in people at high risk. More information on this issue can be found here: heart disease and prevention

However, approximately three-quarters of people taking cholesterol lowering statin drugs, that’s almost 12 million in the US alone, don't have heart disease, they just have elevated LDL cholesterol levels. For these people, especially women, there is no evidence these drugs reduce risk of developing heart disease or that they are able to prolong life.

In a recent article, Dr. John Abramson of Harvard Medical School and author of "Overdosed America," states …

“part of the problem is that, in general, we are paying too much attention to our cholesterol levels and not enough to our lifestyles.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that elevated cholesterol does not significantly increase healthy women's risk of heart disease or overall mortality. Meanwhile, another study, this one in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that women who exercise and maintain a healthy diet develop 83 percent less heart disease than those who don't.
The sad news: Only 3 percent of women maintain healthy habits.
If women want to decrease their risk of heart disease, these are the issues they should be discussing with their doctors, not cholesterol…”

As we have mentioned many times during this website, a healthy diet and regular exercise can work wonders for our health. The evidence just keeps piling up. It may be several years until we finally get to know whether the cholesterol lowering statin drugs are needed or not. But if we can’t trust our doctors who can we trust?

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