Cholesterol Lowering

Only in the past few years have research scientists demonstrated the irrelevance of cholesterol to the process of atherosclerosis. Increasingly it is my opinion that cholesterol-worriers should just forget about their cholesterol levels. After four decades of riding the anti-cholesterol bandwagon with my peers I have now learned that cholesterol is not our enemy. It is of major biological importance, vital to our brains and every cell in our bodies.

If I have learned anything from my years of research on the subject it is that we have far more to fear from low cholesterol than high. You can imagine my ambivalence to the title and concept of this page.

No, I am not reversing my position. First, I am responding to the reality that our forty year focus on cholesterol, the enemy, has left insurance companies, and some major employers, with an indefensible set of standards for blood cholesterol levels that will remain on their books for years.

Rather than argue with these people, a process that could take years, I propose instead that people consider carefully selected natural products, which already have been proven to be effective in cholesterol reduction.

Second, I would be the first to admit that individuals with familial hypercholesterolemia are in a very special category. Yes, we have some families with this condition that have normal cardiovascular risk but what of the others? What of those with cholesterol deposition in the tissues, as: arcus senilis (yellowish cholesterol deposits of eyes); tendon xanthomas (cholesterol deposits on tendons of wrists and ankles) and xanthelasmas (cholesterol deposits of eyelids) and few blood relatives over 60 years of age?

These are caused by various LDL receptor mutations on chromosome 19. Cholesterol control is vital in these relatively few cases and this is why my focus here on cholesterol lowering for this uncommon but devastating lipid problem. For many of these people Statins already have been tried with serious side effects resulting. Options rapidly diminish when this occurs. Natural cholesterol lowering products may be useful in such cases but often prescription items may be required.

The deliberate pattern of gross misrepresentation and disinformation of statin drug side effects to physicians who prescribe these drugs has created a climate where many physicians will summarily dismiss patient claims of damage as impossible, thereby placing themselves in harm's way.

On the basis of my repository of reports from thousands of statin "victims", the first evidence of permanence came from reports of cognitive problems associated with statin use. Michael Hope was one of the first to receive widespread media attention - a former CEO reduced to unemployable status due to persistent loss of short-term memory. Today, four years after the onset, Michael is still grossly impaired. He is one of many hundreds who have persistent cognitive deficits long after stopping their statin.

Next came reports of muscle aches and pains brought on by statin drugs that persisted and even worsened despite promptly stopping the statin. Two astronaut friends of mine, having no history of muscle problems, experienced muscle pains shortly after their statin was started for mild hypercholesterolemia. Much to their dismay these pains have persisted years after they stopped the offending drug. They are but two of thousands in this growing subgroup of people with persistent and apparently permanent muscle symptoms seemingly triggered by statin drug use. Current research indicates that many of these have an unsuspected genetic predisposition. Some of these individuals respond to CoQ10, many do not.

As a family doctor for 23 years, I remember medications occasionally necessary in the pre-statin days. Naturally if statins cannot be used because of not only intolerable but harmful side effects, a return to the use of such agents, however disagreeable, is mandatory and they may well appear in my recommended list.

What follows is a recent email from one so challenged:
My father is hobbling around at age 67 because of the side effects of the Statins - afraid of another bypass operation. My sister is also chronically experiencing side-effects and has been on several different medications. My grandmother (the carrier of our familial hypercholesterolaemia - FH) died at 61 from a heart attack, etc.

It is clear - beyond a doubt - that people with homozygous Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (FH) die quite young from cardiovascular disease ( CV ) when the condition is untreated. So, these high levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream are clearly, unequivocally, harmful. This is the truth: that after all lifestyle interventions have reached their maximum effect that people with FH still have to choose between statins or CV disease. It is a tough choice too, because quality of life vs. length of life is something rarely discussed. I am currently opting for quality by not taking a statin, but it is a difficult decision. There is no simple answer - in fact, there isn't much of an answer at all. I just think that this condition needs more public light, compassion and clear, accurate and thorough information.

Duane Graveline MD MPH
Former USAF Flight Surgeon
Former NASA Astronaut
Retired Family Doctor

Books From Amazon

The Dark Side of Statins
The Statin Damage Crisis
Cholesterol is Not the Culprit
Statin Drugs Side Effects
Lipitor, Thief of Memory

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