Overprescribed: The Health Risks of Statin Drugs
Over 32 million Americans are taking statin (cholesterol lowering) drugs. It is one of the contributing factors to such high insurance costs and something that puts a major financial drain on health insurance. Glenn D. Braunstein, MD, who is chairman of Department of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai stated that one in 4 Americans older than 45 is presently taking a statin drug trying to lower their cholesterol.
Let’s look at the facts. There is evidence that show that if someone who has suffered from a heart attack or has advanced atherosclerosis, these drugs help reduce the risk of future cardiovascular incident. However, if they have no history of heart attack or someone does not have advanced atherosclerosis, these drugs may be unnecessary and do more harm than good. A multi ethnic study on atherosclerosis done at Johns Hopkins gives clear evidence that statin drugs are overprescribed and are not required in many cases in which doctors have prescribed them. This was a large study of over 7000 individuals. The researchers of the study point out that promoting statin drugs as “preventative therapy” for future heart attacks is just bad medicine. They also caution the use of statins because people who take stains are at risk of increasing their chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
If you are currently taking a statin, check the label. In 2012 the FDA required the drug companies to indicate that they can also cause memory loss. This was imposed because post marketing surveillance shows that stain drugs can cause memory loss, memory impairment and/or confusion and is not age-specific. These symptoms can occur anywhere from one day after initiation of the drug to years after initiation. The new labeling also states other side effects of fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle pain and stomach pain.
There are alternatives for people on statin drugs. There is much research out stating that one of the best ways to reduce cholesterol without the risk of these side effects is to follow a proper diet and lifestyle plan.
I have worked with many to lower their cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol) by this approach alone. Some, on the other hand, need an additional nutritional support to help balance and lower their cholesterol numbers naturally. I also feel that we as a society will pay a significant price not only financially but also with our health if we continue to overprescribe these drugs to people who really don’t need them. The risk is that the damage of years of using these drugs may result in the escalation in the number of people developing memory loss, Alzheimer’s liver disease, kidney damage, muscle pain and weakness as well as other problems. This can add up to significant cost as well as unnecessary suffering.
If you are on a statin drug and are interested in finding out ways to reduce your cholesterol naturally or even seeing if there is a way to reduce or get you off of it, either contact me or let me know the next time you are in for your appointment.