Statins, a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, have recently made headlines for supposedly having other beneficial health effects. But are Lipitor, Torvast, Zocor, and other common statins really the wonder drugs that pharmaceutical companies seem to make them out to be? Newsmax Health contributor Dr. Erika Schwartz, one the nation’s top experts on aging and the author of four best-selling books, doesn’t think so.
She says statins shouldn’t be pitched as a panacea, and that health consumers should be leery of any pharmaceutical company marketing the medications that way.
And while many people take statins to help lower their high cholesterol levels in an effort to prevent heart disease, medical studies raise serious questions as to whether this always makes sense, she says.
“We don’t even know that high cholesterol necessarily represents a danger for heart disease,” she notes. “And actually in all the studies, it was the people who had heart disease who seemed to have higher cholesterol levels, which doesn’t translate into — if you have high cholesterol you have heart disease — it’s actually the other way around.”
What’s more, it is clear that many people have lived to an old age despite having high cholesterol levels, she says.
“If you look anthropologically and look at different areas of the world, you see that people live with very high cholesterol levels and they have no incidence of heart disease and they die in their 90s. So it certainly raises the question of the validity of treating everybody with high cholesterol as though they are on the brink of getting a heart attack just because their cholesterol (level) is over 200.”
The best way to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease is a eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, not taking statins, she says.
Slashing animal fat intake, boosting fruits and vegetables consumption, eliminating sugar substitutes, and decreasing the amount of alcohol we drink are critical steps toward heart health, she says. Combine that with exercise that works the heart and builds muscle, she advises.
“Strength-building and cardio are really the way to really protect ourselves from heart disease, which is what supposedly lowering cholesterol will accomplish,” she says.
Dr. Schwartz also takes issue with a recent study that links statins to a lower risk of dying from prostate cancer. The evidence that taking a statin prevents death from aggressive prostate cancer isn’t there, she says, and men should not be encouraged to take statins for that reason.
“We should stop taking these drugs just on the say-so of the drug companies, and the doctors should stop listening to the drug companies who are trying to enforce their way of thinking and making money and using us as guinea pigs.”
To read more from Dr. Schwartz, go to her blog.