Statin therapy decreases myocardial function. That is the result of a study conducted by the Cardiology Division of the Department of Medicine, Michigan State University. Although statins have been found to create a more “favorable” lipid profile, when the heart muscle is tested with echocardiography with strain imaging, they are also found to be associated with myopathy, muscle weakness and in rare cases, rhabdomyolysis. They did not see differences in myocardial function when Doppler imaging was used.
So first let’s talk about what a “favorable” lipid profile looks like. The Mayo Clinic sets forth the following guidelines:
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per deciliter (dL) of blood in the United States and some other countries. Canada and most European countries measure cholesterol in millimoles (mmol) per liter (L) of blood. Consider these general guidelines when you get your cholesterol test (lipid panel or lipid profile) results back to see if your cholesterol falls in an ideal range.
Total cholesterol U.S. and some other countries Canada and most of Europe Below 200 mg/dL Below 5.2 mmol/L Desirable 200-239 mg/dL 5.2-6.2 mmol/L Borderline high 240 mg/dL and above Above 6.2 mmol/L High
LDL cholesterol U.S. and some other countries Canada and most of Europe Below 70 mg/dL Below 1.8 mmol/L Ideal for people at very high risk of heart disease Below 100 mg/dL Below 2.6 mmol/L Ideal for people at risk of heart disease 100-129 mg/dL 2.6-3.3 mmol/L Near ideal 130-159 mg/dL 3.4-4.1 mmol/L Borderline high 160-189 mg/dL 4.1-4.9 mmol/L High 190 mg/dL and above Above 4.9 mmol/L Very high
HDL cholesterol U.S. and some other countries Canada and most of Europe Below 40 mg/dL (men)
Below 50 mg/dL (women)
Below 1 mmol/L (men)
Below 1.3 mmol/L (women)
Poor 50-59 mg/dL 1.3-1.5 mmol/L Better 60 mg/dL and above Above 1.5 mmol/L Best
Triglycerides U.S. and some other countries Canada and most of Europe Below 150 mg/dL Below 1.7 mmol/L Desirable 150-199 mg/dL 1.7-2.2 mmol/L Borderline high 200-499 mg/dL 2.3-5.6 mmol/L High 500 mg/dL and above Above 5.6 mmol/L Very high
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that a triglyceride level of 100 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L) or lower is considered “optimal.” The AHA says this optimal level would improve your heart health. However, the AHA doesn’t recommend drug treatment to reach this level. Instead, for those trying to lower their triglycerides to this level, lifestyle changes such as diet, weight loss and physical activity are encouraged. That’s because triglycerides usually respond well to dietary and lifestyle changes.
*Canadian and European guidelines differ slightly from U.S. guidelines. These conversions are based on U.S. guidelines.
I would tend to say that these numbers are a bit strict, all things considered. My father lived through the period of time when fat was the ultimate villain, red wine was evil, margarine was the best thing going, and SnackWell cookies were created to save the day with their fat free ways. He died. And it wasn’t pretty. It took years of medications, statins, blood pressure drugs, beta antagonists, hospital stays, surgeries, tests, angioplasties, loss of circulation until he couldn’t walk, heart myopathy that eventually led to congestive heart failure and a hospice death in my arms at home. No one should have to live or die that way. I created Holistic Health Insider to help people avoid just that scenario. And now on to the infamous LDL.
There was also a recent study done at Texas A&M University and published in the Journal of Gerontology showing that LDL cholesterol is not necessarily the villain we make it out to be. LDL delivers the HDL to our tissues which require cholesterol to function.
“And the more LDL you have in your blood, the better you are able to build muscle during resistance training.”
This is why one of the most dangerous side effects of statin use is muscle damage. Lowering your LDL and overall cholesterol levels impacts muscle repair and function and even impacts our brain’s ability to produce serotonin. Look at the effects of low cholesterol on the brain:
Some studies have found that cholesterol is important for the production of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that at low levels is associated with depression. Men with naturally low cholesterol levels also have low serotonin levels. Some evidence has reported a link between natural low natural cholesterol levels and negative emotional states, including depression. Some studies have even reported a higher rate of deaths from suicide, accidents, or violence, which could be related to negative emotional states. The following are some examples of such studies from About.com:
- In one study male psychiatric patients with cholesterol below 160 mg/dL had twice the normal rate of suicide and elderly men with low cholesterol levels had three times the normal risk of depression.
- In a large 2001 Swedish study, violent behavior was linked with naturally low cholesterol levels.
- A 2000 study of patients with depression and bipolar disorders found lower cholesterol levels during specific manic or depressive episodes. The study suggested that mood states might produce low cholesterol levels, not vice versa.
- A 2001 study reported a modest increase in deaths from suicide, accident, or trauma in people who lowered their cholesterol with diet or with non-statin drugs.
- People with overall cholesterol levels below 180 mg/dL may be at risk for hemorrhagic stroke (which is bleeding in the brain), particularly if they also have high blood pressure.
So again, the most important thing to do when assessing cholesterol is not necessarily immediately trying to lower it, but more importantly, figuring out why the cholesterol profile is not optimized, including triglyceride levels. Often, consumption of carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, rice, grains, potatoes and definitely junk food, is the culprit. It’s not the fats, not even the saturated fats, if they are in the form of coconut oil, avocados, or grass fed beef. It could even be an underlying condition that is causing inflammation that your body is responding to with cholesterol production, acting as a band aid of sorts on the ruffled vascular condition and therefore building plaques.Dietary strategies are the most effective way to optimize your cholesterol and triglyceride profile.
So the last question to be answered is why the overwhelming use of statins? Maybe we should ask the thieves at Big Pharma. Creating drugs that we don’t need , to treat conditions they make up, to conjure side effects that they have another drug to treat. What would we do without them? Maybe it’s time to find out!