My Cholesterol Story
“Would you rather die of a heart attack than take a statin?”
This is what I was asked from a doctor when I said I would never take a statin (cholesterol lowering drug) for high cholesterol.
So I went to the doctor to get blood tests results. Everything was good except I had elevated cholesterol. My blood work came back with a cholesterol reading of 6, the high end of range that the labs use is 5.4. So yes it is elevated by their standards.
I wasn’t concerned with this as I know total cholesterol isn’t a true reflection of heart health as a stand-alone and I also noticed my triglycerides were 0.5, well within lab range.
The doctor on the other hand must have been concerned as he talked to me about risk factors for heart disease and the 3 different types of groups that he categorizes as high risk, medium and low. Seems as though I’m in the high range risk because I do have a family history of heart disease on my mum’s side and I have elevated cholesterol. Being a non-smoker, now a non-drinker, living a healthy lifestyle, eating well, sleeping well, all didn’t seem to come into the equation. He asked if I drank or smoke and that was all.
Not sure where the doctor was going, I was listening closely thinking “yeah I better listen, maybe I don’t know as much as I think”. After about 10 minutes or so, he pulls out a flyer and starts to talk about how I could qualify to get a statin, a cholesterol lowering drug, through medicare or my health fund. He then says “once you take it, you are on it for life though”, and continued to talk about the risks of heart disease etc.
Catching on, I said “oh sorry mate, I will never take a statin”.
The doctor, a bit defensively, said “why is that?”
I said “well, I have read that they only help 1% of the population, mainly middle aged men who have already had a heart attack. They lower CoQ10 which is an important antioxidant for heart health, among others. It’s a 30 billion dollar a year industry which I believe means there is probably other reasons behind why we are told to take them considering the lack of results the drugs produce, and finally I said to the doctor, I don’t believe total cholesterol means all that much”.
The doctor then said “I’m not going to argue with you.”
I said “I’m not arguing mate, you asked me why I wouldn’t take a statin and that’s why”
He then said “so you would rather die of a heart attack then take a statin?” in a real condescending way, like I have no clue what I’m talking about.
I said, “I don’t believe I will. We need to look at all the fractions of cholesterol to get a better picture, my triglycerides are only 0.5 but you haven’t tested my HDL, LDL, their different particles or anything. You don't have markers of inflammation such as CRP or homocysteine. We don’t have a complete picture. I also don’t think I will die of a heart attack because my diet and lifestyle are good”.
The doctor then says “well you are genetically programmed for heart disease”.
I said “I think lifestyle plays a part too”.
He said “how do you explain children with heart disease?”
I said “well what was their nutrition like, or that of their parents?”
He said “it was good”
I said “what do you consider as good nutrition though?”
At this point I was ushered out of the door.
Now I want to make it clear that I do respect doctors, we do need them, there’s no doubt about that. I’m not trying to say I know better than a doctor here. He is following conventional wisdom and what he knows to be true. High cholesterol leads to heart disease, if you have heart disease you die. Fair call.
The problem is the hypothesis. In my opinion, and many experts in the field (whose work I read closely due to my family history of heart disease), believe that it is wrong.
I will go into more detail about this in another article.
So you may be thinking why have I told you this story?
The reason I told you, is that if you go to a doctor, or anywhere else you are searching for advice, I think you should try to educate yourself a little bit so you can make an informed decision about what they suggest and so you can also ask questions about their recommendations. You can then go away, think about both sides of the story, research further if needed, and then make your decision so that you know why and how to implement whatever you decide.
If I didn’t have a background on the cholesterol/heart disease story, I would be on a statin right now, when in reality I don’t need it (I will explain why in more detail at a later date). By taking the statin medication I would be exposed to side effects such as muscle aches and weakness, cognitive and memory problems, depression, and a reduction of sex hormones to name a few.
Notice I didn’t say I’m an expert, I’m far from it. I do have an understanding of what I need to look for though and that helps me make my decision. I am not smart enough to figure out the mechanisms of heart disease, or any disease for that matter, but I am smart enough to look at the basic science, opinions of well-respected cardiologists who have great results in the field, and weigh up both sides to the story, and make a decision based on what I believe to be true.
We have to start to think for ourselves, just because things have been a certain way for a long time, doesn’t make them true or correct. If we don’t ask questions, we never progress.