Tripp to Health
Our adventures in healthy eating.
Thinking about Taking Cholesterol Medication? Why You Might Want to Think Twice!
There is a lot of very confusing information out there about cholesterol. These days, it is very simple to have blood drawn, learn that your cholesterol is high, and take a pill that will lower it- problem solved, right? Or is it?
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a molecule that is in every cell in your body! It Helps to from membranes/barriers, forms hormones (think testosterone, estrogen etc.), it’s in bile acids (to help digest fat), and is it important for neurological (brain) activity.
What about LDLs and HDLs?
These are otherwise known as “bad cholesterol” and “good cholesterol”. These are often the numbers that are looked at to decide if you need cholesterol medication. These abbreviations stand for Low and High density lipoproteins. It is a protein and a fat combined. What do they do? They SHUTTLE things in our body (fats etc.) from one tissue to another.
What might make your "bad cholesterol" go up?
OK- so now is the time when I blow your mind! Our bodies are so good at fixing themselves. When we are sick, we get fevers to help kill the bacterial or viral infection. When we sprain our ankle, it gets swollen to stabilize it and bring everything to the area that is needed for the healing process. So Cholesterol- If you NEED more things transported around (like fat), your body CREATES more transport molecules to HELP IT to do this!
I think of having “high cholesterol” as a definite warning light that something in your body isn’t right. Taking the pill to artificially lower the number won’t change the fact that your body was making more transport molecules for a reason! This would be like paying someone to turn off the check engine light in your car without actually checking the engine, just to make the annoying light go away! Sounds crazy in those terms!
Back to statistics! Remember Last week when I said that just because 2 things are associated, doesn’t mean that one causes the other. Same is true for cholesterol. Just because people who have high cholesterol and have heart attacks or strokes, doesn’t mean that it is the cholesterol is CAUSING them to have a heart attack or stroke! They both have the same common denominator of things like chronic inflammation, so we can’t say what causes what.
If having high cholesterol is what was causing heart attacks and strokes, wouldn’t lowering it dramatically reduce them?
In a large clinical study by Lipitor, they stated that Lipator lowered bad cholesterol by 39-60%. This sounds pretty good, but there is an asterisk. If you follow the asterisk you will learn that in a placebo group (that took a sugar pill), 3% of the people had heart attacks. In the Lipator group, 2% had heart attacks. This means that for every 100 people that took the drug (for 3.3 years), only 1 less person had a heart attack. That is a lot of medication (and SIDE EFFECTS) for not a ton of reduction in heart attacks!
What does a statin drug do?
One of the main ways it works is by blocking a normal pathway that makes cholesterol.
What other problems does this cause?
Unfortunately this same pathway makes other important compounds (like CoenzymeQ10 important for heart health and muscle function). Like I mentioned earlier, we NEED cholesterol in all of our cells. We need it to produce Vitamin D and to produce steroid hormones (I’m sure you’ve heard some of those low testosterone commercials- possible side effect of inhibiting hormone production?)
What if your cholesterol is too low?
There are studies linking LOW cholesterol to anything from depression, to suicide, to violent behavior, to increased cancer rates, and more!!
Should I get off of my cholesterol medication?
I did not put anyone on cholesterol medication (by law I am not allowed to do that). Therefore, I will NEVER tell anyone to stop taking it. If you are concerned about your current medication, talk to your prescribing doctor.
I have never considered myself to be against using medication. I think that there is a time and a place where it is vitally important and life-saving. For too many people however, it has become an easy quick fix when making healthy lifestyle changes would get to the root of the problem in the long run.
Want to learn more about these healthy life style changes? My next nutrition and cooking class is April 1! Here is the sign up!! I have all kinds of information in my past blog entries, so feel free to dink around the website. Also, if you want to chat about it in person, just give the office a call at 630-448-0255 and we’ll figure out a time to do that!
If you made it all the way to the bottom of this article, and still want to learn more, here is another great article written by Physician Dr. Joseph Mercola on this topic called "The Cholesterol Myth that could be Harming your Health." It is complete with a ton of references!