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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Cholesterol Conundrum: Do I Statin Or Not?

A couple of weeks ago I went back to my family doctor for my annual physical checkup. Ever since I lost 180 pounds in 2004, my doctor has been simply amazed by the complete turnaround in my health for the better.

Prior to my low-carb weight loss, I was on medication for my breathing, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. And for the latter I was told that I needed to take a statin drug to get my total cholesterol down.

As I previously blogged about in this blog post, when I took Lipitor first and later Crestor to get my cholesterol to go lower as my doctor instructed, it certainly did bring my total cholesterol down. But the unbelievably painful joint and muscle pain that I experienced on these dangerous drugs is now the subject of an intensive study to help educate doctors about what they are doing to their patients. It's amazing these drugs are still allowed on the market with so many unanswered questions about what they are doing to people.

Even still, medical professionals have heralded statin drugs as the miracle pill they've been longing to find to lower cholesterol numbers. But what is it doing to the health of the people taking it? Sure, their cholesterol has gone down, but now what problems are they having to deal with because of the statin drug they are taking? Yikes! Which is worse?

I finally decided to stop taking these statins once and for all in August 2005 because I was tired of hurting and became thoroughly convinced that cholesterol drugs are more about money than they are improving people's health in an effort to prevent a heart attack or stroke. Plus, with my enormous weight loss on low-carb, I knew my HDL would be way up from the lower 20's it used to linger at before and my triglycerides and total cholesterol would be way down the next time I had my blood work done.

You can imagine my anxious anticipation after having my cholesterol checked in late October 2005 when I got the incredible results:

TOTAL CHOLESTEROL: 201
HDL: 71
LDL: 119
TRIGLYCERIDES: 57

To say I was THRILLED with these numbers is an understatement. But I didn't realize just HOW good they were until I read Jeff Volek's work on the triglyceride/HDL ratio as an indicator of heart health. Using this equation, my ratio was a mere 0.83! Sure my LDL and total cholesterol were higher than what my doctor would prefer, but I was much healthier than I was before my low-carb experience.

Yet, now I face an interesting cholesterol conundrum that I would like to present to the educated readership at my blog. I just got the numbers back from my latest visit to the doctor in March 2006 and they have my doctor pulling out the dreaded "s" word yet again:

TOTAL CHOLESTEROL: 254
HDL: 72
LDL: 170
TRIGLYCERIDES: 44

As you can see, my total cholesterol and LDL both increased while my HDL grew by one point and my triglycerides continued to plummet 13 more points. I was excited about my triglyceride/HDL ratio, though, which actually IMPROVED to a microscopic 0.61!

Nevertheless, my doctor is very alarmed about my cholesterol numbers right now. He doesn't care that my HDL is outstanding (his nurse even said my HDL was TOO HIGH if you can believe that!) or that my triglycerides continue on their downward path. All he can see is that my LDL is up which has caused my total cholesterol to be up as well. Guess what the first words out his mouth were to treat it: STATIN!

Since I've already tried Lipitor and Crestor, now he wants to put me on Vytorin! But I don't think so. There's something wrong with doctors so quickly wanting to prescribe higher and higher doses of drugs like these that are actually hurting people. I don't want to go through the pain of statin treatment again.

I talked to my chiropractor, an opponent of statin drugs, about my numbers and he said as long as my total cholesterol/HDL ratio is less than 5:1 I should be fine. Using that scale, my ratio is about 3.5:1 so I'm okay according to him.

So, should I be worried about my higher LDL and total cholesterol numbers as much as my doctor is? I'm scheduled to go see him for an office visit on Friday afternoon to discuss this. I'm pretty firm against taking a statin drug again, but should I consider something else to get my LDL cholesterol down? Is it a major concern for me to ponder or is this much ado about nothing?

Especially when you've got studies showing that the existence of LDL cholesterol is actually good as you get older, it makes you scratch your head wondering if all this hoopla about cholesterol in the United States these days is just one big scam by the pharmaceutical companies using our medical doctors as their pawns.

I trust the collective wisdom of those who read my blog and I look forward to seeing your comments about what I should say to my doctor during my visit on Friday. Click on the comment link below or e-mail me at livinlowcarbman@charter.net. THANK YOU!!!

8 Comments:

Blogger Newbirth said...

An LDL of 170 does seem pretty high. I was told it should be under 100.

I'll be retested in June I hope. I know my number won't be as good as last year because overtime has killed all my gym time, but I suspect everything will still be within normal range.

3/30/2006 1:43 AM  
Blogger TESS said...

JIMMY I THINK I WOULD FIND ANOTHER DOCTER. TIME TO GET MORE THAN ONE OPINON I WOULD SAY. AS FOR MYSELF-I WOULD TAKE MY CHANCES AND LOOK FOR A VITAMIN SUPPLEMENT. ALSO DID HE DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE TWO TYPES OF LDL? ACCORDING TO DR EADES ONE TYPE IS A PROBLEM AND THE OTHER TYPE ISN'T? LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING HOW YOU SOLVE THIS.

3/30/2006 6:19 AM  
Blogger Kent said...

I am a little more mainstream about cholesterol and elevated LDL levels. Of course this is something that I never really had to deal to with. Before low carb, I was marginable (200s with LDL in the 140s), and after my results have become phenomenal. I just got my 2 year results (after starting in March 04) in:
Triglycerides - 35
Total Chol. - 150 (down 1 pt from last year)
LDL Chol. - 95 (down 5 pts)
HDL Chol. - 48 (up 3 more pts)
The only suggestions I would have is perhaps to eat closer to Induction level carbs again as the additional sugar near CCLL levels can indeed levels and perhaps add some ground flax meal into your diet. Flax meal has been reported to lower cholesterol. I throw it as an additive in everything from mock danishs or in my salads. These are just standard answers as I am certainly not an expert in this field. I do know some people who have more experience with this subject than I. You may find additional answers there, but in either case I wish you the best and look forward to hearing about it.

3/30/2006 8:30 AM  
Blogger KarenJen said...

Just my opinion, but I think your numbers are great, and wouldn't worry too much about the LDL, though it is a little high. Look at your triglycerides! And your HDL! Fabulous.
I agree with the comment that "tess" made. The Eades did say (in PPL) that as your triglycerides plummet, you make the larger, fluffier LDL rather than the smaller (more dangerous) LDL. There is a test that can measure the subclasses of LDL (LDL gradient cell electrophoresis). Maybe that would be money better spent, than money spent on drugs :)
Check out Protein Power Lifeplan pages 93-94.

BTW, Love your blog!

3/30/2006 10:23 AM  
Blogger Michelle S. said...

Have you heard of red rice yeast? I've heard great things about it lowering cholesterol. My friend's mom took it for 6 months and hers went from 230 to 180 for total. The other numbers improved too.
Doctors are never happy are they? LOL My total went up on low carb too, about 20 points. For me the weight was the worst of the 2 evils so I keep doing it and watch the cholesterol levels. Good luck!
LOVE YOUR BLOG!!!!
Michelle

3/30/2006 3:03 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Ronald Hoffman, M.D., has practiced complementary (traditional plus alternative) medicine for twenty years. I listen to him on the radio as often as I can. His hourly show is on WOR-AM 710 New York nightly and a longer show Saturdays. I have listened to Dr. Hoffman for a few years now and have learned much. He is constantly increasing his understanding of medicine through reading studies from many different reputable sources everyday.

Dr. Hoffman has his own diet, "The Salmon and Salad Diet", which is a form of low-carb, good-fat diet. He is a defender of Dr. Atkins, whom he knew personally for many years. He is quick to point out that Dr. Atkins has been maligned by those people who cannot stand the idea that he might be right - in particular noting that the Atkins diet has been widely distorted and misquoted.

Dr. Hoffman has also discussed the use of niacin, red yeast rice, and many other nutrients and supplements for the purpose of lowering cholestrol. BUT he is also quick to point out that the total level of cholesterol is not nearly as important an indicator of health as the ratio of high to low (or was it low to high) and the level of triglyerides, which is directly affected by this ratio.

See www.drhoffman.com for more information and listening times in your region.

3/30/2006 5:27 PM  
Blogger Science4u1959 said...

Indeed there is very little to worry about. High total cholesterol has been shown to be protective and healthy: it's the ratio's that are all-important and not the total number. That's simplistic measuring for simplistic people. Your triglycerides and HDL ratio's are very good and overall I would say that your vital biomarkers are excellent.

The entire cholesterol discussion is for the most part a total hyperbole and benefits only Big Pharma.

Remember: it is a well-documented scientific fact that those with the highest cholesterol readings tend to live the longest lives. Period.

3/30/2006 8:22 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

Kent,

My Mom puts flaxseed into stuff. It's helped her get her cholesterol down.

Jimmy,

It might be something for you to look into. I think my Mom takes two tablespoons a day, which she measures in a film canister so she can take it with her when she eats out.

3/31/2006 1:08 AM  

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