Statins are hailed as a wonder drug in the fight against heart disease, with some doctors going as far as recommending that they be prescribed to everyone over the age of 50. But what about the 1 in 5 users that suffer potentially devastating side effects? Reducing cholesterol naturally lowers your risk of developing heart disease without the debilitating side effects of statins.
When are statins prescribed?
The most common use of statins is to reduce the risk of people who already have coronary heart disease experiencing another heart attack.
Sadly, many people are routinely prescribed statins just because they are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they are overweight, their cholesterol levels are high, or even simply because of their age. In all of these cases the risk of heart disease can be reduced by changes in diet and lifestyle, and by using natural alternatives to statins.
What are the side effects of statins?
It has long been recognized that there are a number of side effects of statins. These include:
- Muscle pain and damage
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Joint pain
- Nerve damage
However, at the end of 2009 the UK based MHRA, or Medicines and Healthcare product Regulatory Agency, issued warnings about five ‘new’ side effects of statins which are:
- Memory loss
- Sleep disturbance
- Sexual dysfunction
- Lung disease
Until recently it was believed that only 1% of statin users would experience the most common side effect of muscle pain, but an initial study at the University of California put that figure closer to 20%, or 1 in 5 users. Inevitably, as the regular use of statins continues, further side effects will be discovered and the true percentage of users who suffer from them will become clear.
What are the natural alternatives to statins?
If your doctor suggests you should be taking statins, there are a large number of natural alternatives you might want to consider instead to lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. Even if your cholesterol levels are normal and you aren’t at a high risk of heart disease, these natural alternatives can be quite beneficial.
Here are six alternatives to statins that lower cholesterol naturally:
- Raw almonds have a wide range of health benefits. They lower cholesterol as well as reducing spikes in blood sugar levels, which helps to prevent diabetes. Eating raw almonds lowers lipoprotein, which determines genetic risk of heart disease. Raw almonds are also a great tool for those trying to lose weight, as they are very filling and provide a wealth of nutrients, including a broad range of minerals. They help to limit sugar cravings. Eat just one handful a day and reap the benefits.
- Soy protein powder, a good source of isoflavones, can help to reduce your cholesterol levels by limiting cholesterol production in the liver. Take three tablespoons a day and mix into yogurt or a fruit smoothie.
- Pectin, found in orange and lemon rind and apples, is a natural fiber that helps to lower cholesterol. This means the answer to reducing your risk of heart disease could be sitting right there in your fruit bowl. If citrus rind doesn’t appeal, pectin can also be bought in powder form.
- Flavonoids, also known as Vitamin P and citrin, are a collection of plant compounds that help to reduce risk of heart disease, as well as potentially helping to prevent cancer and other diseases. They are found in citrus fruits, green tea, red wine, and bitter dark chocolate.
- Beta-glucan is found in soluble fibers such as oat bran, and is known to lower cholesterol, reduce blood sugar levels, and provide roughage for healthy bowels. The oat fiber in Fiber System (8oz.) provides 14% beta glucan in addition to several other natural cholesterol fighters. Beans such as kidney beans are another source of beta-glucan.
- Chol-X (90) is an inositol hexaniacinate based dietary supplement that supports the body’s normal cholesterol removal process by promoting the liver’s ability to take cholesterol from the blood. One capsule of Chol-X (90) three times a day can reduce cholesterol levels by limiting cholesterol production and encouraging cholesterol removal.
Should I stop taking statins today?
While switching from statins to a natural alternative will help long term to prevent statin side effects, it is not advisable to stop abruptly because this carries a small but real risk of activating previously silent coronary plaque.
It is often possible to add natural supplements alongside statins, and then gradually decrease your statin dose until you are no longer taking the pills.
If you have already experienced a heart attack, or suffer from another form of cardiovascular disease, statins may well be beneficial in preventing a recurrence. However if, like the majority of statin users, you have been prescribed statins as a matter of routine, you can reduce your risk from debilitating side effects by checking out more natural alternatives.
Editor’s note: Getting people obsessed about their cholesterol levels has worked wonders for the bottom lines of drug companies. These companies often operate by first creating a problem, and then coming up with a solution you have to buy to fix it.
The truth is that cholesterol is an essential component of health. Without it, you cannot function. Cholesterol is needed to form cell membranes and cell walls, and is essential to proper cell functioning. Cholesterol is necessary for the body to make hormones and bile acids that are critical to digestion. Cholesterol is a powerful antioxidant that helps keep us looking and feeling younger and more vital. Cholesterol protects against colon cancer.
If your doctor hasn’t succeeded in getting you on statins yet, be prepared to face more pressure. Crestor, the statin drug made by Astra Zeneca, has recently been approved by the FDA as a preventive medicine for patients not yet exhibiting cholesterol problems, as defined by the drug companies who make cholesterol drugs.
In addition to the side effects mentioned in Caroline’s article, Crestor and other statins increase risk for diabetes according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA Deputy Commissioner. In a recent interview on CNBC, Gottlieb also noted that a new study has shown statins raise C-reactive protein levels, a marker for cardiovascular risk (the condition they supposedly help control).
Gottlieb pointed out the difference between primary prevention, which is aimed at the healthy, and secondary prevention, which is aimed at those who have already had disease involvement requiring cardiovascular interventions, such as persons who have had a heart attack.
Currently there are few primary interventions that are profitable for drug companies.. However, Gottlieb stressed that this is about to change. Under the new government sponsored health system, the focus will shift to approving more pharmaceuticals such as Crestor for use as primary preventions. Right now, 80 million people are on statins, and it appears that number will swell considerably, particularly if the government declares statins are mandatory for everyone.