Why Statins Are Bad For Your Health

So you, or a loved one, have been told that you have high cholesterol, and in your hand you hold a crisp new prescription for a statin drug

...but you're hesitant to fill it.

Perhaps you've heard about all of the side effects that people have reported. Side effects such as...

  1. Muscle and joint pain
  2. Liver damage
  3. Memory loss and even amnesia
  4. Nerve damage
  5. Diabetes
  6. insomnia

And it scares the hell out of you...

So, you protest, "...but doc, do I really need it?", they reply, "If you do not take this drug, you will have a heart attack, stroke, or even die."

statin prescription

"What about the side effects?", you inquire..

Your doctor shrugs it off, replying, "Better side effects than a heart attack?"

They tell you that there's nothing to worry about!

Perhaps they tell you that (and this is real words from one of my patient's cardiologist) "If I could get your cholesterol down to zero, I would..."

Ugh. When did things go so wrong for cholesterol?

This article is not about trying the case against cholesterol and heart disease, that is another, VERY long article in the future.

This article is about what to do when you're being told that you have high cholesterol and, if you don't take a statin, you'll die...

Statins: The Right Solution For The Wrong Problem

I said I wouldn't cover the reams of data that disprove the cholesterol theory of heart disease, but I will say this...

High cholesterol is NOT the cause of heart disease.

Now, it's not irrelevant to the discussion of heart disease, but it is CERTAINLY NOT the most important factor.

In fact, focusing on cholesterol could be likened to trying not to stub your toe while dodging bullets on a battle field.

That's why we're having this discussion...

Statins work like gangbusters to lower cholesterol. If you're obsessed with lowering your cholesterol, then statins are the right tool for the job.

If, however, your goal is to avoid dropping dead from a heart attack or stroke, then cholesterol is without doubt the WRONG place to focus!

I don't care about my cholesterol levels, I care about living a long, healthy, vibrant life. Statin drugs don't get me there. They don't get you there.

The Drug Companies Agree - Cholesterol Is Out, Inflammation Is In

Statin drugs are big money makers, but cholesterol is going out of vogue, mostly because they make you feel terrible, but also because people are beginning to doubt that cholesterol is the culprit.

So, guess how the health organizations and drug companies are beginning to spin the story...

They're beginning to say that it's not the cholesterol lowering effect of statins that will save you...it's the statin drug itself.

New guidelines are beginning to focus less on how low they can get your cholesterol and more on the simple habit of popping your statin pill, regardless of whether or not you achieve your cholesterol goals.

Why? Because statin drugs lower inflammation levels in the arteries, and now they're telling you THAT'S why they work to prolong your life, cholesterol is less important.

But, Do Statins Make You Live Longer?

Yes. Well, at least for some of you.

In statistics there's a value called "Number Needed To Treat", or NNT for short. The concept of NNT is simple, it answers the question, "How many people do you need to treat for a specific time period to gain one beneficial outcome."

With statin drugs, we want to know the number of people we need to give the drug to, for approximately 5 years, in order to prevent one heart attack, stroke, or one death.

There's another value in statistics that is equally important...

NNH, which stands for Number Needed To Harm.

NNH answers the question, how many people will suffer a health consequence from taking the drug.

Warning...This May Disturb You

Prepare for some disturbingly unimpressive results.

If you've already been diagnosed with heart disease, here's what you can expect from taking a statin drug for 5 years:

  • 1 death will be prevented out of 83 people who take a statin for 5 years. (82 out of 83 people gain no benefit)
  • 1 non-fatal heart attack will be prevented out of 39 people. (No benefit in 38 out of 39 people)
  • 1 stroke will be prevented out of 125 people. (No benefit in 124 out of 125 people)

What about harm?

  • 1 in 50 people who take a statin will develop diabetes caused by the drug
  • 1 in 10 people who take a statin will suffer debilitating muscle damage (a number believed to be underestimated)

Impressed? Me neither...

What about if you don't have heart disease and you are considering a statin as a means of preventing heart disease?

Do Statins Help People Who Do Not Have Heart Disease?

If you were not impressed by the benefits in people who HAVE heart disease, you're going to be downright disturbed by the results in people who do not have heart disease.

  • Statins will save exactly ZERO lives. There is absolutely no benefit to longevity in people who do not have heart disease.
  • 1 non-fatal heart attack will be prevented out of 104 people (103 out of 104 people who take a statin for 5 years will NOT benefit)
  • 1 stroke will be prevented out of 154 people (153 out of 154 people will gain NO BENEFIT from statins)

The harm caused by statins is the same as in people with heart disease...

  • 1 in 50 people who take a statin will develop diabetes caused by the drug
  • 1 in 10 people who take a statin will suffer debilitating muscle damage (a number believed to be underestimated)

In addition, we can't ignore that the majority of the research published was directly funded by the companies that manufacture and sell the drug. This adds a layer of potential bias to these numbers that could skew the results in favor of the drug.

Then Why Do Doctors Still Prescribe These Drugs?

Medicine understands that most drugs for chronic conditions, like heart disease, are a bit of a crap shoot. They get that most of their patients will not benefit. So they treat based on statistical medicine.

You see, they rationalize such dismal results by saying, "If we treat 1 million people (who already have heart disease) with a statin, 45,000 people will see some sort of benefit, such as preventing a non-fatal heart attack, stroke, or cardiac death."

Sure, people feel like crap when they take statins. Sure, we'll see more cases of diabetes. But, we must take the bad with the good.

Which would make sense...if there weren't other options that provide equal OR GREATER benefit WITHOUT debilitating side effects. But before we get into those things...

Do You Want To Have Some Fun, Ask Your Doctor This And Watch Them Squirm...

Ask them, "If I take a statin, how much longer will I live?"

You see, docs will tell you that you'll die if you don't take a statin, but they don't tell you how much longer you'll live if you do.

Luckily, we know the answer to this question...

You'll be tired and in pain for those 4 days, but at least you'll gain 4 days of life.

Do No Harm...What A Load Of...

There are two types of harm caused by statin prescriptions...

The first is side effects, which are far more common than reported in the research. Fatigue, muscle pain, liver damage, and memory loss are the most common side effect. What about the thousands of diabetes cases that are caused by statins and not reported to the FDA? What about the nerve damage caused by statins? What about the insomnia reported by statin users, most doctors don't even realize that this is a side effect.

Side effects of statins are real AND they can be debilitating. We can't ignore them or brush them aside, especially in light of the dismal benefits associated with statins.

The second form of harm is far more devastating...

I'm referring to the harm caused by NOT DOING SOMETHING ELSE.

Doctors prescribe statins because they don't have anything else to offer. We still don't fully understand why people prematurely drop dead from heart attacks. Lowering cholesterol is the lazy man's solution. It solves a visible problem and makes people feel like they're protected...but they're not.

While they're taking their statin, they're not eating better, or exercising, or taking supplements that can actually make a difference.

By giving patients a statin drug, we're giving them an excuse NOT to do things that can actually prevent a heart attack, or stroke, or can actually help them live longer!

Things like consuming a Mediterranean Diet, which, by the way, has a number needed to treat of 18 for preventing a second heart attack and 30 for preventing cardiac death after your first heart attack WITHOUT a single negative side effect. Unless you consider more health, vitality, and energy a side effect. Oh, and by the way, you'll also avoid diabetes.

Said another way, if you eat a Mediterranean Diet, you're more likely to prevent a heart attack, stroke or premature death than if you opted for the statin.

So...here we are. You have high cholesterol and a statin prescription, what do you do?

Talk to your doctor. Tell them that you don't want to take a statin. Tell them that you'll change your diet, you'll exercise, you'll change your lifestyle. Ask them to give you 6 months and then retest. If you're not making progress, then you'll revisit the statin drug option.

For the most part, doctors want to help. They want you to be healthy. Most conventional docs, just don't know how to prevent disease - they're amazing at patching you back together, but not at preventing chronic conditions. So, work with them on YOUR terms. If they're insulted or bothered by your choice to not blindly follow their advice, then find a new doc.

So, I encourage you to sign up to my free newsletter below because I will be teaching a lot more about alternatives to statin drugs for protecting your heart from disease. Together we can build a plan that will help to normalize your cholesterol and, more importantly, make your heart and blood vessels meaningfully more healthy which will result in a longer life, more energy, and less disease.

If you have a family member or friend who you feel needs this information, share it with them.