Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Low Cholesterol Limbo!

Statins are the wonder drugs of the new millennium. Decades of studies have shown that high cholesterol levels can bring an increased risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis, and statins work effectively to lower these levels. People with diabetes are at increased risk of heart disease too, so common practice is to put all diabetics on statins to lower their cholesterol levels and mitigate the risks.

However, the figures can be somewhat misleading and delving deeper uncovers how statistics and studies can be manipulated so that it becomes a very far from clear-cut situation. Much of the analysis and study has been commissioned and paid for by the big pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs they want us all to take. The cynical amongst us might suspect a certain level of bias in their findings…

I’m not really too concerned by that, but what has bothered me is the fact that no-one has set a lower limit on cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is an essential substance for the body, being directly involved in every cell, so we need a certain amount of it to live. Over the years, the cholesterol theory has been constantly modified – first it was total cholesterol, then we had ‘bad’ and ‘good’ cholesterol, ‘safe’ limits were being constantly lowered, seemingly to vanishing point! As a diabetic, the recommendation is that I keep my total levels below 4.0. Using statins, my level last year fell to 2.4, but there was no indication that this was a sign I could achieve healthy levels without the drugs and when I questioned it I was encouraged to keep taking them.

After thinking long and hard about it I have decided to stop taking them and take my chances. I have a slightly increased statistical risk of heart disease – of 100 people taking them, three will possibly have diminished risks, the remainder will carry on as before. Set against my increased risk of heart disease are the decreases in risks of other problems. Very low cholesterol levels have been shown to carry an increased risk of stroke. Also, statins can have side-effects – some minor, but some very serious, including death. So for me, I find it better to let my body find its natural levels rather than directly interfere with its processes using crude and powerful drugs. This may not be right for everyone, as people and circumstances differ vastly, but for me the case and the advantages are not proven. My doctor is probably not going to like it!

A useful book on the topic is: The Great Cholesterol Con

And this website graphically illustrates the risks and benefits of statin treatment:

Another article which summarises the case against lowering cholesterol to extremes and exlpains the history of the 'cholesterol is harmful' hypothesis:

The Low Cholesterol Limbo, how low can you go?
Well, since no-one’s ever told me I’m afraid that I don’t know!
They say ‘four’ for diabetics is where to set the bar,
But my record low is 2.4, so I’ve beaten that by far!

And what’s the prize for winning when my shoulders scrape the floor?
It seems they’ll fill me up with drugs, then lower it some more!
For there might be an outside chance I’ll die of heart disease,
But what about the other risks? Could you explain them please?

For every hundred people who have been ‘statin-ated’
Then there’s a chance for three of them, the risks will have abated…
The statins help us limbo low – but too low is no joke,
For fall too low and it will bring an increased risk of stroke!

I’d rather let my body work the way it was intended,
The doctors might not like it, and they might be quite offended.
But if I learn to live my life in a healthy, balanced way,
There’s every chance I’ll be just fine and dance another day!

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