Statins can kill you--but not in the way you may think.
You also may have read in these pages that statins can cause liver toxicity, heartburn, digestive problems, headaches, and fatigue. But that's not all. They can even raise "bad" cholesterol (LDL) in some people who already have high amounts--although they're designed to have the opposite effect.
Even though you know about these side effects, you may have decided that you can live with them in exchange for lower cholesterol. What you may not know, however, is that these drugs can cause even worse side effects.
The drug companies have purposely left you--and millions of other people--in the dark about these side effects. Sixteen million people in this country take Lipitor, a statin given to prevent heart disease. Millions more take other statins. This is a multibillion-dollar business, and drug manufacturers spend a lot of time and money convincing doctors that statins are necessary--and safe. But almost none of the people who take statins know about the really serious side effects statins can cause.
So what is this side effect that's so serious? What if I told you statins increase your risk for cancer? Well, it looks like they can. In fact, all rat studies using statins found that the drugs increase the risk for getting cancer.
But what about human studies? In one trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine, breast cancer rates in women who took statins increased by 1,500%!
No, that's not a misprint or typo. This study found that taking statins increases your risk of getting breast cancer by 1,500%. One in seven women now get breast cancer. Are statins part of the reason this ratio continues to shrink? I think it's part of the reason.
What's the connection to cancer?
So why do statins increase your risk so much? It's because they lower your cholesterol and LDL too far. And low cholesterol is a risk factor for cancer.
In a more recent study at Tufts University School of Medicine, Dr. Richard Karas and his team found that when LDL levels were less than 100 mg/dL, the risk for cancer greatly increased. Less than 70 mg/dL is considered to be ideal by the American Heart Association and other groups.
This study comes right out and says, "The risk of cancer is significantly associated with lower achieved LDL levels. These findings suggest that ... the cardiovascular benefits of low achieved levels of LDL may in part be offset by an increased risk of cancer."
Then there was a Japanese study that followed more than 200 patients with lymphomas. It found there was a higher risk of lymphoid malignancy in patients who took statins. How many more studies do you need to hear about before you realize that there's a connection between statins, low levels of LDL, and an increased risk for cancer?
The dangers of low LDL
Doctors prescribe statins precisely because they lower total cholesterol and "bad" LDL. LDL (low density lipoprotein) is the sticky cholesterol that can build up plaque in your arteries and lead to heart disease. The current medical thought is "the lower the better."
In April 2004, leading cardiologists, seemingly on cue from the drug companies, said that LDL levels of 100 mg/dL were not low enough. In fact, they believe your levels should be no higher than 65 mg/dL! Patients could achieve this level, they said, by taking up to 80 mg per day of Lipitor.
But we now know that this recommendation makes you more susceptible to cancer. In fact, both low total cholesterol and low LDL levels are associated with a higher risk of dying from cancer. The reason? They lower your immune system. And the manufacturers of statins know this.
Let me be clear. Statins don't cause cancer. They lower LDL to very low levels. This, in turn, can lead to a suppressed immune system and an increased risk for cancer.
Statins can also lower total cholesterol too much. In my opinion, cholesterol has gotten a bad rap. It's extremely beneficial. Cholesterol helps the body repair itself. It's a powerful anti-cancer antioxidant. And it's a precursor to vitamin D and the adrenal hormones. In fact, many doctors have told people to lower their cholesterol unnecessarily.
Dr. Matthias Rath, MD, an expert in heart disease, explains that there's nothing wrong with cholesterol levels of 220 or 240. Lipoprotein (a) and fibrinogen are much bigger risk factors. (You can read more about these on my website--www.womenshealthletter.com).
Meanwhile, don't let anyone frighten you into taking statins. Review your ease carefully with your doctor and have other markers of heart problems evaluated before reaching for that prescription.
More reasons to avoid statins
In addition to increasing your risk for cancer, low LDL levels have other side effects. They can interfere with neurotransmitter mechanisms in your brain. This means that you could have memory problems and forget where you are and even who you are. This memory lapse can last from a few minutes to a few hours!
A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found congestive heart failure was another side effect from taking statins. Coenzyme Q10 reversed this condition. If you're taking statins for any reason, please also take 100-200 mg per day of CoQ10. This is especially important if you have cancer, as most cancer patients have low blood levels of CoQ10.
How effective are statins?
Even though statins lower LDL, they don't lower your risk of dying. Let's look at the figures. In a large analysis of 44 clinical trials, with nearly 10,000 heart patients, the death rate in people taking Lipitor, other statins, or a placebo, were identical. A mere one percent of these patients in each category died.
Side effects, however, were not identical among the three groups. Sixty-five percent of people taking statins had side effects, while only 45% of people taking a placebo had complaints. Three to four times as many people on statins dropped out of the studies because of adverse reactions.
Bottom line: statins caused more side effects than taking nothing, without improving survival rates even a little bit.
Reasons you may want to take statins
In spite of all their limitations and dangers, statins may be appropriate for you if you have a history of blockages in your heart arteries, if you have a stent, or have had angina or a heart attack. If you are diabetic and have high C-reactive protein (a sign of inflammation), taking a statin could lower your risk for heart disease. This is because statins reduce inflammation, one of the underlying causes of heart disease. You could be better off just reducing inflammation.
Just remember that other anti-inflammatory substances, such as turmeric and Padma Basic (an effective Tibetan herbal formula that's been the subject of a number of sound scientific studies), can lower inflammation without statins' side effects. Padma is available by calling 800-728-2288. You can find turmeric supplements in most health food stores.
Statins are also appropriate for anyone who has waited too long to take charge of their health, or is not willing to change their lifestyle and eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. If you want a simple solution without taking responsibility for your health, perhaps you should reach for a pill. Just remember it may not give you the results you're looking for. And it could give you some you really don't want.
There have been reports alleging that statins prevent Alzheimer's disease. A study published in Neurology earlier this year found this was not the case. It found no relation between taking statins and avoiding Alzheimer's. Statins don't even slow down cognitive decline.
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