HEARThrive - Module 3 - Cholesterol and Statins
- It may help if the student has watched the previous 2 modules in HEARThrive, but that is not a requirement.
Do you really think you have to lower your cholesterol?
If you are a middle aged man or woman there's a very high probability your doctor has prescribed a cholesterol lowering statin drug to you.
The biggest challenge confronting you is whether to take your doctor's advice or do other things - that you may not even be aware of - that will benefit you far more then popping a statin pill.
Two of the main things you can do are change your diet, as discussed in Module 2, and exercise regularly - as discussed in HEARThrive Module 4 on Exercise.
Many people will get side effects from statin drugs and feel they just have to live with that, or believe the way they are feeling is their "new normal" and simply a natural part of aging.
The most common side effect is muscle weakness and soreness.
But statins can also deplete your energy, and when that is combined with your muscle soreness you are not going to feel inclined to exercise.
It's a classic "Catch-22" problem. Because if you're not exercising you're increasing your heart disease risk and chance of getting a heart attack.
GreenMedInfo, a popular website with well-researched information, reports there are 80 studies on muscle soreness from statins. But the drug may be doing a lot more damage than that.
GreenMedInfo says there are 54 studies of nerve damage, 32 studies reporting liver damage, 9 studies showing statins promote cancer, 8 studies that they promote diabetes, and 16 studies of endocrine destruction, i.e. screwing up your hormones.
Oh, I almost forgot, and 15 studies of cardiovascular damage. Yes, very organ you are supposed to be protecting with a statin drug is getting damaged. Heart failure in particular is a real risk according to some experts.
There has been a long-standing belief that cholesterol in food from your diet raises your heart disease risk. This has absolutely now been taken off the table as a possible worry.
What have I learned about Cholesterol?
After my twin brother's quadruple heart bypass surgery in 2008, I met with a cardiologist. He of course checked my cholesterol.
The biggest red flag at the time was my low HDL cholesterol value, which was only 34 mg/dL. A healthy value for males is at least 45, and preferably closer to 60.
The doctor of course wanted to put me on a statin to lower my LDL, which at that time was 128 mg/dL, down to 70. I made it perfectly clear - even at that point in my research - that I would not be taking a statin drug.
I had already read the book Overdosed America by Dr. John Abramson, which clearly explained how statistics are reported to make it look like statins have a phenomenal benefit.
The trick is the drug companies report "relative risk," which is meaningless and deceptive, versus the actual numbers - absolute risk - that showed 1 in 67 people, after 5 years on statin therapy, will be saved from having a heart attack or stroke.
I was able to improve my HDL by changing my diet and exercising more. That's something that will happen to you automatically with these two lifestyle changes.
If it's not cholesterol, then what does matter?
Doctors don't seem to pay much attention to triglycerides, yet more and more this is now being realized as being significant.
My triglycerides have dropped (which is a good thing) from 102 (in 2008), to a recent range of 60 - 75. And my triglyceride to HDL ratio improved from 3.0 in 2008 to a current range of 1.0 - 1.6. Experts say a ratio under 2.0 is what you want, and 1.0 or under is even better.
New research suggests heart disease is absolutely not caused by cholesterol. The correlation is now attributed more to the lipoprotein particles that transport cholesterol.
The particles, if small and numerous, can get into your arteries, and if oxidized can lead to plaque buildup. The plaque is composed of cholesterol but that's because cholesterol is trying to actually heal the destructive process. So, cholesterol is found in the arteries but it's not what is causing the problem.
What is causing the problem in the first place is your crappy diet - especially trans fat in junk foods, and desserts, too many carbs, too much sugar, too little exercise, too little sleep, and too much belly fat.
Check out the "Me and My Twin" segment in Module 3. I will compare my numbers - based on what I eat and how much I exercise - to my twin brother, who eats more carbs than me, exercises much less, but does take a statin drug. Very interesting.
Now, new knowledge suggests that even gut problems play a role (Covered in Module 9 of HEARThrive). And that may lead to autoimmunity, which leads to inflammation, one of whose consequences is heart disease.
Don't forget about stress. And let's not even talk about cigarette smoking. If you smoke, you know you are destroying your heart and your health. Compared to cholesterol, learning how to manage stress, which will be covered in detail in HEARThrive Module 11, is of much greater consequence to heart health than cholesterol numbers.
A quick shortcut through the cholesterol myth
If you want to bring your cholesterol numbers down really fast, taking a statin will do the trick. But as we discussed, it is not the way to go. Nor is it necessary. Nor is it healthy.
The fastest way to improve the numbers that do matter, which include triglycerides, HDL, particle number and particle size is to change to a diet that is very low in carbohydrates and avoid sugar and of course avoid trans fats.
With less sugar, you will have less glycation and inflammation, both of which contribute to heart disease.
You are going to learn some very empowering information in this very controversial module of HEARThrive. So dig in!
Who this course is for:
- I am targeting students who worry about cholesterol and get concerned when their doctor says they must lower it with statin drugs..
Malcolm Achtman, together with his twin brother Myron, own and operate a successful video production business in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. In May 2008, Myron developed heart disease and required a quadruple bypass. Malcolm then decided to become a student of heart disease and do whatever he could to avoid his brother's fate. Yet he too got heart disease and underwent a triple bypass in 2016. Malcolm feels he has many stories to share about what he learned and what he and his brother could have done differently to prevent heart disease. He shares this knowledge in a health-focused program called HEARThrive, now available on Udemy.