Living with high cholesterol? WebMD gives you 11 tips to lower it, fast. Check out this link for some seriously do-able tips from me and other experts around the country.
It’s clear that cholesterol medication can reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke in those at greatest risk. Yet when it comes to the more senior population, research has been lacking. In many studies of the drugs, the average age of participants is in the mid-60’s, but a recent French study chose to evaluate a much older population.
In this 9 year observational study of nearly 7500 relatively healthy men and women, the average starting age was 74. At the onset of the study, none had been diagnosed with heart attacks or strokes. Over an average of 9 years the researchers found that those who were prescribed drugs to lower cholesterol and triglycerides had a 30 percent lower likelihood of developing stroke. The risk reduction held, even when factors such as age, body size, baseline cholesterol, and blood pressure were taken into account.
Cholesterol drugs aren’t for everyone, but it’s good to know that when they are needed, the benefits appear to be substantial even for seniors.
To read more about the study, and to get my take on the findings, see reporter Beth Greenwood’s article at DailyRx.com
There are many reasons that couples may have difficulty conceiving, but you might be surprised to learn that high cholesterol appears to be one of them. A recent study of couples who were part of the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and Environment study found that high cholesterol in both men and women was associated with lower rates of fertility.
In an interview with DailyRx.com reporter Nancy Maleki, I noted that “Oftentimes, people fear that by lowering cholesterol, they may inadvertently cause other problems to arise. We know that cholesterol is an important component of many of the hormones involved in reproduction. However, typical levels in the US are unnaturally high due to diets high in unhealthy fats and processed foods. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle also contribute.
“For most adults of childbearing age, making heart smart lifestyle changes will go a long way towards improving cholesterol levels. In general, women who are considering pregnancy should not take cholesterol medications, since there is no proof that these drugs are safe during pregnancy.”
You can read more about the study and its implications by following the link to the story on DailyRx.com.
Statin drugs save lives. There’s no question that when prescribed appropriately and managed carefully, the drugs can reduce the risk of heart attacks by 30 percent or more. Statins also provide powerful protection against stroke.
However, the drugs have received some bad press as of late due to concerns that statins could raise the risk for diabetes. In fact, there does appear to be a slightly higher risk, especially in those on higher doses of statins. But those who develop diabetes also tend to be those whose blood sugars are trending higher and who have other significant risk factors for diabetes even before the drugs are started. What’s more, the people at greatest risk for diabetes are also those who are most likely to benefit from taking a statin.
Exercise and maintaining a healthy weight may substantially lower the risk for diabetes, whether or not you take a statin drug.
In an interview with DailyRx.com’s Morgan Jones, I noted that “I think it’s important to understand that preventing heart disease does not begin and end with a pill.It’s critical that individuals take responsibility for their own health. By exercising regularly, choosing a smart diet, not smoking and keeping weight in a safe range, heart disease can often be prevented.”
“For those with heart disease, these healthy lifestyle choices will often mean that a lower dose of statin is required. And of course since it is those people at higher risk for diabetes who are more likely to become diabetic on a statin, making these healthy choices will also lessen the risk of this side effect,”
To read more about an analysis of the issue, click on the link to DailyRx.
Heart disease is our number one killer, but it is highly preventable. A study of over 17,000 adults spearheaded by researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina found that simply controlling blood pressure and cholesterol could cut the risk of heart disease by a stunning 50 percent.
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are common problems, but if you’ve never been tested, you won’t know that you suffer from these conditions. Many people are reluctant to take medications, fearing side effects. In my comments to DailyRx.com, I emphasized that “while it is true that a small number of people will have side effects from medications, the majority of people have no problems with medical therapy. For those who do, we have such a wide range of options that we can usually find a good alternative.”
Want to limit the number of meds you need? Exercise, maintain a healthy body weight, and eat heart smart. For most of us, it’s really not that complicated.
Statins are lifesaving drugs. By lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation within the arteries of the heart, brain, and other body organs, they can cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 30% or more. Since heart disease is our number one cause of death, the number of lives saved and disabilities prevented is enormous. However, the drugs are not without risks. Achey, weak muscles can afflict perhaps 5 percent of those who take the drugs. Life-threatening muscle injury which can lead to kidney failure is a very rare, but well established, consequence of statins. Irritation of the liver may also develop in a relatively small number of users.
Recently a series of research studies has established a link between statin use and diabetes. As a cardiologist, I believe it is critical that we put this issue into context. In general, the risk appears to be most substantial in people who take high doses of the statin drugs known as simvastatin (Zocor), atorvastatin (Lipitor), and rosuvastatin (Crestor). There is some evidence that pravastatin (Pravachol) may actually be associated with a lower risk for diabetes. Fluvastatin (Lescol) and lovastatin (Mevacor) do not appear to substantially raise the risk. These three statins are weaker than the first three, so they may not work for everyone.
Most people who are prescribed statins will not have a problem. For every 160-400 people who take one of the higher-risk statins, one individual will develop diabetes as a result. Overall, those who go on to develop diabetes on statins tend to be people whose blood sugars are borderline high to begin with. Those people also stand to gain the most benefit from taking a statin, because they tend to be at substantially higher risk for heart disease and strokes.
If you need to take a statin, your lifestyle is the key to getting the greatest benefit for the least amount of risk. By losing weight, exercising, not smoking (yes, smoking also raises cholesterol), choosing a Mediterranean diet, and avoiding red meat and processed foods, you can often lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol by 20% or more. I’ve seen patients drop their number by as much as 100 points by making such simple, healthy choices. You’ll feel better, have more energy, and also lower your risk for stroke, cancer, and dementia. And if you still need a statin, you will likely be able to take a much lower, safer dose.
Check with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your lifestyle. If you’re on blood pressure, diabetes, or cholesterol drugs, it’s important to be monitored, since those number will often plummet. By making small but meaningful changes, you can truly change the course of your life and the lives of those you love. What are you waiting for?
Risk factors for heart disease, including diabetes, tobacco, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity can also reduce normal brain function and memory. A recent study from The Netherlands found that the more risk factors an individual has, the more poorly he or she performed on tests of memory, reasoning, and planning. The test subjects ranged in age from 35-82. Those with the greatest number of risk factors performed 50 percent worse on testing compared to those without risk factors.
Diabetes and tobacco use were associated with the greatest amount of harm. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and more than 90% of cases can be prevented with exercise, weight loss, and diet. As I told DailyRx, “we need to get rid of the notion that we can
play catch-up on our health later in life and all will turn out well in the end. This is a loud and clear wake up call to take control of our health and well-being today.”
Should people at low risk for heart disease take statins? Opinions are mixed, but there is a potential benefit. I was interviewed for this thought-provoking article in DailyRx.com