Dr. James Cleeman is pleased with the lower cholesterol numbers, but the side effects of statin drugs is still a question
This Washington Post column today reports on new government data that shows cholesterol levels in Americans have dropped as a result of an increased use of popular statin prescription drugs.
While obesity rates keep going up and up, the latest government research findings indicate that cholesterol numbers for adults aged 20 and older have come way down over the past four decades, especially in older adults, as a result of statins such as Lipitor, Crestor, and Zocor.
According to the study which appears in the October 12, 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the average total cholesterol levels for people ages 20-74 fell from 222 down to 203 from 1960 through 2002. Healthy total cholesterol levels are considered to be below 200.
People aged 50 and older are attributed with brining this number down significantly. Americans 60-74 years old saw their average levels dip from 232 to 204 in men, or a 12 percent drop, and from 263 to 223 for women, or a 15 percent drop.
National Cholesterol Education Program coordinator Dr. James Cleeman, who co-authored the study, said the percentage of people with high cholesterol levels in the last ten years of the study fell to 17 percent. Researchers were hoping to reach that benchmark by the year 2010 and beat it by eight years. However, the number of people taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs nearly tripled from 3.4 percent to 9.3 percent from 1993 to 2002.
Interestingly, while cholesterol levels sunk, another precarious heart health number went in the other direction. Triglyceride levels inched upward and was attributed to the obesity epidemic, which has hit nearly one-third of the U.S. population.
Statin drugs have made incredible differences in people wanting to lower their cholesterol, but at what cost to their health. Sure, the drugs are keeping cholesterol at bay, but what about the painful side effects that these statin drugs are causing so many millions of people taking them. That's what this study is trying to get to the bottom of and I think it should cause people to stop and think about what they are doing to their bodies by popping a pill to make their cholesterol go down.
Is there not a natural way to lower your cholesterol combined with a healthy diet and exercise program that we can use or must we be subjected to taking a very, very expensive drug that can cause unwanted physical problems? I have taken both Lipitor and Crestor before and during my low-carb lifestyle. My total cholesterol was near 300 before I started livin' la vida low-carb in January 2004 and came down because of Lipitor. But my joints got so sore and the pain was so unbearable that I quit taking it.
When I visited the doctor in April 2004, just a few months after starting my low-carb lifestyle, my doctor asked me if I was still taking my Lipitor. I told him I had to quit it because of how it was making my body feel. He said he was very impressed with my HDL "good" cholesterol levels which had gone way up and my triglycerides which had fallen significantly since starting my low-carb lifestyle.
But my LDL "bad" cholesterol was still over 100 and he wanted to see that number go lower. That's when he prescribed me Crestor. I took it for a while and my LDL came down while my HDL rose and triglycerides fell some more. But I recently stopped taking that drug because of the intense pain in my shoulders, ankles and wrists. I'm still feeling the impact of taking Crestor and probably will until it is completely out of my system. While I appreciate that my total cholesterol is below 200, I am not satisfied nor am I content with the thought of having to take a pill for the rest of my life to keep my LDL in check.
I had my blood work done at a health fair conducted at my job recently and anxiously await the results. I expect my numbers across the board will be phenomenal since my 180-pound weight loss. But what can people do to make sure their cholesterol stays down without being told they have to take a statin drug until the day they die. I'm just not buying that answer.
My HDL was around 72 as of the last time it was checked in January 2005 and my triglycerides were at 31. If your HDL is high enough, then should you be worried about your LDL? Should we believe Dr. Ron Rosedale who says we should be more concerned with blood sugar than cholesterol regarding cardiovascular disease, the #1 killer in America today?
While doctors and other medical experts will hail these declines in cholesterol numbers as proof that they were right about prescribing statin drugs, I think the jury is still out on the long-term effects taking these medications is going to have on the quality of life experienced by the people who take them.