The controversy about the use of statins (cholesterol lowering medication) is almost at fever pitch. The research is there, unfortunately due to the fact that non-"pharmaceutically positive" information is hardly ever published in the journals that GPs actually look at; it's easy to understand why most GPs still advocate statin use as the "first line" in lowering cholesterol levels. The simple answer is this: GPs get their information from pharmaceutical companies who have successfully pitched them as wonder drugs to the medical community. These days it's rare for me to meet someone who hasn't been offered a script for a statin.
Still, in the field of complementary medicine I take the position that it is not up to me to decide for anyone whether to take prescription medication. That is a decision for the client and is between them and their physician. I do however like to offer some available adjunct therapy options for their consideration.
Firstly have ALL the relevant tests been done to accurately depict the cardiovascular risk of the cholesterol reading? Has the doctor completed a full lipid test showing not only total cholesterol, HDL's and LDL's? (which are not cholesterol but the carrier molecules that transport cholesterol). Has the doctor investigated the Lipo A, APO A and APO B levels? (have you ever even heard of those?) What about the inflammatory markers like homocysteine, C-reactive protein and have they checked your iron levels, vitamin D, B12 and folate?
My clinic offers pathology testing for full blood lipids without a GP referral. Yes, you can have a pathology request prepared so you can walk straight in to a QML and have them done. The test is not Medicare rebateable (which means you pay the full cost) however at last look the cost for a full lipid screen is about $42.
Many GPs rely solely on high-dose statin drug therapy to achieve desired blood lipid readings. One problem with this approach is that side effects elevate markedly as the dose of the statin drug is increased. These side effects of high dose, sustained statin use are well documented and include muscle wasting, cognitive impairment, blurred vision, and nerve damage, among others.
I believe it’s important to take all necessary steps to protect heart health; and (in some instances) it can be very appropriate to include cholesterol-lowering medications. However, in my personal naturopathic opinion high-dose statins are often unnecessary and they should not be considered the only approach. The truth is that statin drugs do lower LDL and total cholesterol, but have only a modest effect on boosting artery-cleansing HDL. Statin drugs do not lower triglycerides.
The encouraging news is that there are many safe, low-cost interventions existing right now. If you want to find out more, or if you are worried about your cholesterol reading, (regardless of whether you are on statins or not) I'd love to hear from you.
Time and time again I hear people ask "why do I feel so bad when they tell me there's nothing wrong?" My goal is to help solve your health problems, to get to the bottom of things, not just symptom control but to bring about a return to good health.