Dispelling Some of the Myths Regarding Statin Drugs, Cholesterol and Heart Disease – PART I

Myth 1

High cholesterol (and LDL) is the #1 cause of heart disease in the country.

Wrong. High cholesterol is among the risk factors for heart disease, but far from the leading factor. The most prevalent? Low HDL, along with small LDL particles. Of every 100 people with coronary heart disease, 60-70 will have low HDL and small LDL particles (not standardly tested for). Fewer than 30 will have high LDL. Why do we not hear more about low HDL and small LDL particles? Because treating these is not as profitable for drug companies. But when it does become profitable to treat this more prevalent risk factor for heart disease, we can expect to hear about “the epidemic” that will justify billions of dollars on new drug expenditures. (Note the dates on the references studies. This is not new data!)

Myth 2

If I take a statin agent, I won’t have a heart attack.

This is simply untrue. Low cholesterol (even rock bottom levels) reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of heart attacks. Many heart attacks still occur in people with low cholesterol levels, whether or not they take cholesterol lowering drugs or supplements. Other more important risk factors must be considered besides cholesterol, such as small LDLs, low HDLs, high fibrinogen, high homocysteine, high C reactive protein, and high insulin levels. Results from a National Health and Nutritional Survey showed that 47 million US adults have metabolic syndrome, (low HDLs, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, excess abdominal fat) most of which remains undiagnosed and untreated and substantially heightens the risk of heart disease even in the presence of low cholesterol.

Myth 3

I feel fine and my stress test was normal. My doctor says I don’t have heart disease.

This is among the most widely propagated fallacies spewed by many well-meaning primary care physicians and even cardiologists. First, lack of symptoms should not be reassuring as most heart disease is silent – without symptoms and undetectable by conventional means, such as electrocardiograms and cholesterol testing. Second, stress testing is a miserable failure for screening asymptomatic people. Most future deaths and heart attacks, in fact, occur in people with normal stress tests (when symptoms are not present). The net results of this misperception is that most future heart attack victims are walking around feeling fine and unaware of the risk. Cholesterol can be high, low or in between, but all to frequently, fails to shed light on this murky situation.

Functional Diagnostic Medicine takes a holistic, full-body, non-drug approach to cardiovascular disease prevention and management. In addition to the above mentioned cardiovascular markers (c reactive protein, homocysteine, fibrinogen, etc.) indicative of probable heart disease, one must look at specific essential fatty acid balance, liver detoxification status, general nutritional deficiencies, pathogenic viral and bacterial assessments, hormone testing, comprehensive stool analysis, toxic profiles (heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants). Any investigation less than this into the various metabolic factors that negatively affect heart function simply cannot predict heart health and cardiac disease susceptibility.

Functional medicine is on the crest of a new wave of chronic disease science due to its holistic and cutting edge diagnostic approach. Fifteen to 20 years from now these advanced testing procedures may become accepted by the standard medical community and insurance industry, but until then it’s buyer beware, do your homework and make sure the doctor you choose is properly educated in Functional Medicine procedures.

Next  – Part II – More on cholesterol – the lipid with the bad reputation, true cardiovascular disease risk factors and cardiovascular disease and inflammation.

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