Well, “someone” (big media) finally asked the obvious question “what is going on with these statin drugs?”
For those of you who have worked with me, you already know that I have some ideas about cholesterol, heart health and statin drugs that vary from the conventional “party line.” I have worked diligently in my practice to offer alternative ways of thinking about cardiovascular health, cholesterol and healthier ways of reducing cholesterol, when necessary.
Why? There have been some serious health risks, documented by the drug manufacturers themselves, in association with the use of these drugs. Additionally, there are many people taking these drugs that suffer significant reduction in quality of life upon taking the statins. Further, so far no one has been able to present compelling evidence that these drugs are really doing anything very useful for those that are willing to take on the health risks and quality of life challenges that go along with taking these drugs.
Business Week magazine just published an eye-opening article on that very issue. And as one person put it to me “you will be very happy to read this.”
The news is a great disappointment to those that were taking these drugs in hopes of achieving some miraculous reduction in their risk of a dangerous cardiovascular event. On the other hand, it is encouraging to those that always suspected that perhaps there could be something else, something more, something safer, on that health horizon for them. It gives us all the renewed confidence to do our own thinking on this topic, to listen to our “gut” on this issue, and to think twice before taking something that may do more harm than good.
Most of the people that I work with know that there are serious concerns over the statin drugs, but at the same time they are also afraid to go against the conventional recommendation that these drugs are going to save them from a heart attack. It has been a struggle, emotionally, to doubt that these drugs will actually deliver on that front. On one hand it feels like a risk to take them and on the other hand it feels like a risk not to take them. For the person making that decision, it feels like being caught between a rock and a hard place.
Fortunately, Naturopathic Medicine has so much to offer as we seek to enhance our cardiovascular health and reduce our risks associated with the cardiovascular system. The explosion of research in nutritional and herbal medicine over the last 25 years scientifically validates our inclination to lean in that direction. Further, in the interest of first do no harm it is just smarter to start with a therapy that does not carry the risks and side effects often associated with pharmaceutical agents and that simultaneously enhances our overall health and our quality of life.
If you, or someone you care about, have concerns about cardiovascular health – and are working with your prescribing physician to take a fresh look at your statin prescription, consider incorporating Naturopathic Medicine into that discussion. Conventional testing such as blood tests for cholesterol levels, homocysteine, cardio CRP, and calcium scored heart scans can give you insight into your success so that you can monitor the effectiveness of the therapeutic choices you make. Further, new forms of testing are being looked at as more accurate for determining risk, such as the Rho-Kinase enzyme – which seems to be more effective at predicting risk than cholesterol levels.
We have so much to work with, and it feels so good to accomplish your cardiovascular goals by improving your overall health. Feel free to contact us and make an appointment with me to begin this important heart-healthy work for a great 2008!
What did that Business Week article have to say? Here is the take home message:
- Statins do reduce LDL cholesterol, but the data that they have a significant impact on reduction of heart attacks relative to their cost is minimal
- Without multiple risk factors for heart attack (smoking, blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol) approximately 250 people have to take statin drugs, for years, at a cost of over $1,000 per year in order to prevent one heart attack – in other words we are spending over $750,000 to prevent one heart attack with the use of statins.
- Why are we so aggressively trying to lower cholesterol
o Recommendations from the NCEP - National Cholesterol Education Program, lowered the targets for LDL cholesterol, which increased the number of people who were “candidates” for statin drugs
o However, 8 of the 9 people on the NCEP had financial ties to pharmaceutical companies that sell statin drugs
- NTT – Number to Treat – the number of people that need to be treated to prevent one heart attack
o For statins NTT is 100 for people with multiple risk factors and roughly 250 for those with just high cholesterol
- Perspective from other countries:
o Spain has similar levels of LDL cholesterol to the US, but less than half the rate of heart disease
o Switzerland has higher levels of LDL than the US, with lower rates of heart disease
o Australian aborigines have lower cholesterol levels than the US, but higher rates of heart disease
- Rho-kinase – an enzyme marker linked to inflammation in the arteries, may be a better indicator of heart disease risk
Naturopathic Physicians and has served on the board of Directors for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. She is a guest professor in Gynecology at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and in Rheumatology at Bastyr University. She created the "Carrie Louise Daenell, ND Advanced Gynecology Scholarship" at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. Recently Dr. Daenell has co-authored the book Better Breast Health for Life and currently practices as a wellness consultant in the Cherry Creek area of Denver. Look for her on the PBS show Healing Quest hosted by Olivia Newton John and on the PBS show American Health Journal – The Doctor Show. Areas of specialty for her include: Menopausal, hormonal, digestive, chronic fatigue, allergy, hepatitis, cholesterol, arthritis and immune challenges. She can be reached at (303) 399-8050 or you can visit her website at www.DrDaenell.com.