Wednesday, February 4, 2009

To Statin or Not to Statin: That Is the Question.

With some trepidation, I have stopped taking Lipitor. I didn't experience muscle weakness taking it, like my husband did (see earlier post), but I do think it was causing hair loss and some mild memory issues. More importantly, though, I felt that it might do me as much damage as good...and that, right now, the trade-off just wasn't quite worth it to me. (I am open to reassessing my decision if my cholesterol situation or other cardiovascular health factors worsen.)

I'm fully aware that statins decrease the chances of stroke and heart attack. I believe that. I'm also convinced that the decrease may have as much to do with statins reducing inflammation as with statins reducing cholesterol. The relatively new inflammation/c-reactive protein theory, suggesting that coronary events are connected to inflammation at least as much as to cholesterol, is now being advanced by a number of scientists and appears to be supported by the fact that while the drugs I spoke of in last week's post about my husband (non-statins) do lower cholesterol, they do not have the same track record in preventing heart attack and stroke as statins do. This begs the question of whether the preventative success of statins has a lot more to do with their ability to reduce inflammation than with their ability to reduce cholesterol counts.

To some degree this may be a moot point, as the drug of choice for inflammation leading to heart attack/stroke would still be Lipitor or a similar statin. But would drug researchers look for other ways to address inflammation (and cholesterol, for that matter) if anecdotal stories about cholesterol-lowering drugs and their negative side effects were taken at face value and scientifically investigated? Might a less risky alternative be developed if complaints from the pill-taking population were not dismissed out of hand? 

For the time being, this is my quandary: Lipitor does have an anti-inflammatory effect, and I would love to take it for that reason but am afraid of it for other reasons. Therefore, I have gone on an anti-inflammatory diet as an alternative to Lipitor, and I take natural supplements that reduce inflammation/cholesterol.

Again, I don't argue the point that statins save lives; the statistics prove it. I also think they may change the quality of some lives for the worse by impacting other systems in the body besides the cardiovascular one. I am not advocating against the use of statins. This has to be a personal choice. I just want people to have all the information available, so they can make an informed decision. I also want science to take a real good look at the reports of so many people who have serious side effects from them. Let's try to find out what's going on here, researchers! (And by the way, doctors...Quit throwing statins at anyone and everyone. My daughter's doctor tried to prescribe Lipitor for her, and her cholesterol is not even at a level my doc considers problematic!)

As for me, I'm not entirely sure what I'll do in the long run about my statin concerns, but I'll figure it out based on my own health status and the trade-off factor. My main reason for posting this is just to say, once more: Patient beware...and be aware


emily said...

sue, i am embarrased to say that you pretty much lost me on this one, what is a stain? i know that high cholesterol is bad, i know that mine is high (210, ouch), but completely knock it on genetics b/c i exercise 3x per week, walk daily, and eat very healthy. i can't remember what my mom is on, but literally everyone on my mom's side of the family is on cholesterol medication. i keep thinking i should get it checked more often b/c no one is checking with me being so young. food for though. thanks for the info, i hope to learn more:-)

emily said...

i meant statin

Natalie said...

My husband says you are his favorite kind of patient...really! :) It makes him happy when people are involved in their own healthcare.

And, thanks so much for your comment. I laughed out loud...sniper, that was a great one! Thanks for your support! :)

Natalie said...

And, I also wanted to say good luck with the new things you are trying, I hope it works wonders for you!

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