The Scoop on Statins

Published on Thu Dec 5, 2013 - 4 min read

Published by: Bryan Bradford

Why the new guidelines on heart attack and stroke are giving us a heart attack

By Bryan Bradford, Chief Nutrition Officer of Sunflower Shoppe Natural Foods

November 22, 2013


You may have heard the buzz recently about the new guidelines doctors are to use when determining a patient’s need for statin medication to lower the risk for heart attack and stroke. According to the Associated Press, one third of U.S. adults ages 40 to 70 will meet the threshold to consider taking a statin drug. Only 15% of this group currently takes a statin drug(s). Under these guidelines, it is more likely that your doctor may suggest long term statin therapy for you.

There is much debate about this issue going on in the medical world. The heart experts who wrote the new guidelines are having to defend the formula that some doctors say overestimate the risk for certain groups.

There are pros and cons to consider when it comes to statins, and we would like to help you make an educated decision if you find yourself considering statin therapy.

First, let me explain that the body produces cholesterol because it needs it. LDL has been labeled the “bad” guy because of extra LDL molecules that remain after the good LDL work has been done. This very important work includes building healthy cells, repairing injury, and helping our body make the hormones it needs. Afterwards, in comes HDL (the “good” cholesterol) whose job is to “mop” up those LDL molecules not being used and return them to the liver. It’s only when we don’t have enough HDL to clean up LDLs that we are at greater risk for heart disease and stroke.

Before considering long term medications, it is important to know that you can help control many of the risk factors for heart disease. Diet and exercise are your first line of defense since imbalanced blood sugar levels are a major cause of unhealthy ratios of LDL and HDL. And we all know smoking and stress are leading contributors of heart disease. However, if these lifestyle changes are not enough to reduce your risk of heart disease according to your doctor, then you should know the risk factors of the drugs themselves.

These serious side effects include the following, according to LIPITOR® (atorvastatin calcium), as listed on its label. All statins have similar warnings:

  • Muscle problems. LIPITOR®can cause muscle problems such as weakness, tenderness or pain that may occur without a good reason, especially if you also have a fever or feel more tired than usual. This may be an early sign of a rare muscle problem.

  • Liver problems. Your doctor should do blood tests to check your liver before you start taking LIPITOR and if you have symptoms of liver problems while you take LIPITOR. Call your doctor right away if you have the following symptoms of liver problems:

                         feel tired or weak

                         loss of appetite

                         upper belly pain

There was enough evidence from clinical trials and reports of adverse effects from patients, doctors and drug makers that in 2012 the Food and Drug Administration  required manufacturers of statin drugs to add new safety warnings to reflect an increased risk of memory loss and diabetes.

The diabetes risk is especially concerning since one of the key target groups for statin drugs is now “people ages 40 to 75 with Type 2 Diabetes.”

Some statin drugs may impair memory – researchers at the University of Bristol in England found that two commonly prescribed statins – pravastatin (Pravachol) and atorvostatin (Lipitor) – reduced performance of recognition and working memory in an animal experiment.

Statins may raise cataract risk – a research team at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, Texas, reported in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology (September 2013 issue) that statin usage increased the risk of cataracts by 27%.

Statins work by blocking the enzyme HGM – CoA reductase which is the pathway the body uses to create cholesterol and CoQ10. The Mayo Clinic provides this information on its website regarding CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10). CoQ10 is produced by the human body and is necessary for the basic functioning of cells. CoQ10 levels are reported to decrease with age and to be low in patients with some chronic diseases such as heart conditions, muscular dystrophies, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS. Some prescription drugs may also lower CoQ10 levels.

If you are taking a statin, supplementing with CoQ10 is critical, and most but not all doctors have begun to recommend it.

Many doctors and researchers believe that the benefits of these medications far outweigh the potential risks. Your decision whether or not to continue or begin statin therapy is one you should make with your doctor. Hopefully, you are now equipped with information – and the whole picture – to help you make the best decision. If you would like to learn more about heart health and other wellness topics, come see us at Sunflower Shoppe where great health is just a way of life!


Helpful links and references:


The content and opinions expressed in this “Shoppe Talk” blog are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any illness or to provide medical advice. We are not medical doctors and we do not prescribe medication. If you have any questions about the relationship between nutrition and supplements, we recommend that you seek the advice of a qualified and licensed health practitioner. Our opinions are based on the literature and data from a variety of medical doctors, chiropractors, naturopathic physicians, biochemists and other professional researchers. You are encouraged to make your health care decisions based on your own research and the advice of a qualified health care professional.

Published By:

Bryan Bradford

Bryan Bradford is the lead nutrition specialist, Certified Health Coach and Chief Nutrition Officer and one of the founding family members of Sunflower Shoppe.

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