Dr. Nissen says study is leading a "revolution" in treating heart disease
This Washington Post story about a new study proclaiming a "revolution" in reversing the risks of heart disease with statin drugs has me concerned about the unintended adverse health consequences of such a strategy over the long term.
Apparently studies have been underway looking at higher doses of statin drugs, such as Lipitor and Crestor, to see if they can make a difference in the amount of cholesterol buildup that most people believe leads to blockages in the arteries which then makes you susceptible to having a heart attack or stroke. This latest study claims to have found the first non-surgical way to clear clogged arteries by loading the participants up on statin drugs.
Led by Dr. Steven E. Nissen, interim chair from the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, the study looked at 507 patients with mild to moderate heart disease who were given a whopping 40mg of Crestor to see what effect this prescription drug would have on their health.
The results of the study found that the LDL "bad" cholesterol fell from 130 down to 61, or a 53 percent drop, and the HDL "good" cholesterol rose from 43 to 49, a slight rise of nearly 15 percent.
Ultrasound scans of about two-thirds of the study participants were also conducted both before the study began and after the two-year high-dose statin treatment ended. Dr. Nissen and his researchers found that plaque had actually decreased in the arteries of those participants by about 7-9 percent.
"Many people thought, and I was among them, that we really weren't going to be able to reverse the disease with statin drugs. The thinking was if you got the bad cholesterol low enough you wouldn't form new plaque, but you couldn't get rid of the plaque that was already there," Dr. Nissen said. "But we showed you could. I was very surprised."
These findings, funded by AstraZeneca (makers of Crestor) but conducted by an independent research firm, were made public at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Atlanta, Georgia on Monday and will appear in the April 5th edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Nillsen describes this study as "the beginning of a real revolution in the treatment of heart disease."
"We're not merely slowing down the inexorable progression but truly reversing the disease," he said. "It's very exciting."
Forgive me if I'm not jumping for joy, Dr. Nillsen. As someone who has taken much lower doses of both Lipitor and Crestor in recent years, let me tell you I am VERY concerned about the implications of recommending a 40mg dosage or higher of these statin drugs to ANYONE! Sure, the cholesterol numbers drop and plaque has been found to be reduced, but at what cost to the rest of people's health?
Prior to my weight loss, I took Lipitor for about a year before my joints hurt me so bad I took myself off of it. Then the doctor put me on Crestor to bring my cholesterol down but again I had major joint pain. The dosage I was taking was a mere 5mg. I could not imagine multiplying this by 8 or more just to POSSIBLY reduce the amount of plaque buildup in my arteries. I don't even want to think about what that statin drug would do to other parts of my body if my joints hurt like they did at the smaller dosage.
My contention is that these so-called cholesterol-lowering drugs like Lipitor and Crestor are more about money than they are health. Unless you already have heart disease, it is a known fact that taking a statin drug has NOT been found to lengthen your life or reduce your chances of getting heart disease. Too many people have been duped by their doctors into believing that taking a statin drug is the ONLY way to lower your cholesterol and to prevent the onset of heart-related illnesses.
But people who are livin' la vida low-carb know that our way of eating combined with regular exercise actually LOWERS LDL and total cholesterol. It really does! Additionally, triglycerides plummet and HDL readings go up. For me, my HDL rose from 23 to 71 in the one year I lost weight on low-carb. Pretty compelling stuff, eh?
Why are we so worried about the total cholesterol numbers anyway? These cholesterol debates focus way too much on that total number and completely neglect the all-important triglyceride/HDL ratio that people should be looking at.
Looking at my blood work from October 2005, my ratio is a teeny tiny 0.83. Just in case you hadn't noticed, that's pretty good! Most people would LOVE to have a triglyceride/HDL ratio that LOW! I'm going back to my doctor this Friday for another blood work checkup where I expect to see my ratio still doing just fine thank you very much!
Plus, now we've got this recent study that found LDL "bad" cholesterol in elderly people may not be so bad after all! Sheeez! Do we need to go to such drastic measures as prescribing higher and higher doses of expensive statin drugs if there's no real concern about cholesterol?! I think you know the answer to that question.
Renowed nutritionist and health advocate Dr. Ron Rosedale says that people don't need to worry about their cholesterol, but rather their blood sugar when it comes to heart health. And he's right! It is one of the reasons why people who are livin' la vida low-carb are able to correct issues related to heart disease NATURALLY and WITHOUT THE USE OF ANY DRUGS because we shun sugar! You would think more doctors would WANT to find more natural ways to improve health rather than resorting to prescriptions, but apparently not.
Dr. Nissen says he is hopeful his study will lead to less heart attacks and strokes and that this form of high-dose statin treatment can become commonplace if it can be found to be safe for patients. I am very afraid of what negative consequences this is going to do to have on people, especially with doctors basically being given the green light to prescribe more and more statins all in the name of helping his patients.
Yikes! If your doctor wants to be "aggressive" with you and prescribe 30mg+ of Crestor to lower your cholesterol, then run as fast as you can out of that office. While I'm sure he means well, that can be a dangerous precedent that will be difficult to undo once the ball is rolling on that one. Why are these highly-educated medical professionals so easily convinced that taking a pill is the BEST remedy to any problem? Wouldn't you think they would want to make that a last resort? One would hope.
While heart disease is indeed a fatal problem in the United States, there are better ways to bring those death rates down. For starters, putting a greater emphasis on finding working solutions to the obesity problem will help. Obesity and the symptoms of metabolic syndrome are tearing our nation apart from the inside. Health experts need to advocate multiple weight loss options for people to choose from so they can get their weight and health under control permanently.
Obesity is at the root of most of America's health problems today. Public service announcements encouraging people to find something that will help them lose weight are sorely needed to convince the 2 out of every three people who are overweight or obese in this country that NOW is the time for action. That's why I created this blog to give people the hope they are looking for that weight loss can happen for them just like it did for me.
It's not easy, but it CAN be done. Make TODAY the first day of the rest of your long and healthy life. And that includes being able to ditch the dangerous drugs that you supposedly can't live without. YOU CAN and YOU WILL!
3-15-06 UPDATE: Check out this interesting info from one of my readers:
Too bad that Dr. Nissen didn't read Dr. Matthias Rath's book, "Why Animals Don't Get Heart Attacks, But People Do," which came out several years ago. Dr. Rath wrote that high cholesterol is simply the body's way of trying to prevent arteries from rupturing due to weakened arterial walls, the result of chronic vitamin C deficiency. The human body needs vitamin C in order to produce high quality collagen, and collagen is much of what our blood vessel walls are made.
Unlike other mammals, we humans have lost the ability to synthesize our own vitamin C, and we must obtain it in our diet. Lack of vitamin C results in bad collagen and eventual breakdown of blood vessels. The extreme form of the condition is know as scurvy. In the milder form, the body detects the problem and sends a signal to the liver to start producing cholesterol, a sticky "emergency cement" that attaches itself to weak spots on the artery walls. This is a desperate survival strategy;
ultimately the body will die as the result of a stroke or heart attack if nothing is done.
Dr. Rath showed that a multivitamin regimen high in vitamin C (3000 mg per day, taken 3x per day in 1000 mg doses) can bring cholesterol levels down after about six weeks. Further, he claims, people who had already been targeted for bypass surgery by their physicians frequently had the plaque in their arteries dissolving, to where after 6-8 months surgery was no longer considered necessary.
Most doctors who have gone through traditional medical training still don't get it. They're trained to treat illness after it has damaged a patient, rather than preventing it.
How about that? Does anyone take Vitamin C to keep their cholesterol levels down? That would be interesting to know. Click on the comment link below.