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Cholesterol and Statins

Cholesterol is a naturally occurring substance that has been correlated with conditions such as heart disease.  Excessive levels of cholesterol have been linked to increased risk of coronary artery disease and heart attacks.  Because of this, we all see the numerous pharmaceutical commercials telling you to ask your doctor if their pill is right for you.  These commercials are usually referencing a class of prescription medications called statins.  Statins are designed to chemically block your body’s ability to produce cholesterol.  The theory is that by stopping the production of cholesterol we can lower our serum cholesterol levels and therefore reduce our risk of heart disease.  Sounds good, right?

Unfortunately, not exactly.  First of all, cholesterol is an essential molecule for sustaining life.  Among other things, it is a precursor to the sex hormones.  Without cholesterol the body can’t make testosterone, estrogen, etc.  Cholesterol is also the main building block of the myelin sheath which is the electric insulator around nerve cells.  Without cholesterol, our nerves and our brains would not be able to function properly.  So entirely shutting down our body’s ability to create cholesterol molecules likely isn’t the best idea.

Secondly, statin medications cut off the chemical pathway for forming cholesterol at a very early level, which means every other chemical process involved in that pathway is also completely shut down.  By doing so, we cut off our body’s natural ability to produce two major neurotransmitters, specifically acetylcholine and serotonin.  Low levels of serotonin are associated with increased rates of depression and anxiety.  By medicating ourselves to decrease cholesterol we are greatly increasing the number of people suffering from mental health problems, which often leads to additional medications with additional side effects and additional prescriptions to treat those other side effects.

And third, a known side effect of statin drug use is called statin-induced myopathy.  Myopathy is a term meaning dysfunction of muscle tissue.  This can range in presentation from minor muscle aches to rhabdomyolysis, or muscle tissue death.  Considering your heart is a muscle, taking a medication that can damage muscle cells may not be the best option when trying to prevent heart disease.

Granted, there are circumstances when pharmacology is necessary and if you are currently taking a statin medication I am NOT recommending you stop without discussing it with your prescribing physician.  What I would like to present to you is that there are other options available to lower serum cholesterol levels  without submitting to these unwanted and potentially dangerous side effects.

Cholesterol can be lowered naturally with fairly minimal effort by making a few dietary changes.  This does not necessarily mean avoiding foods that contain cholesterol, but rather setting the stage for your body to function optimally and regulate the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream better.  This can be done by increasing your fiber intake to help your body pull LDL cholesterol from your bloodstream and eliminate it through the digestive tract, supporting your liver’s ability to process cholesterol and lipid metabolism, and maintaining a healthy balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

If you are interested in learning more, please ask your doctor at Body Logic if these alternatives to statins are appropriate for you.  Click here to read about some of our patient’s success stories, and click here for more information about some of the natural supplements that might be helpful in preventing the need for pharmacologic intervention.