We have a number of “rites of passage” in our lives. First day of school, first crush, first house. But one I’m sure most of us could do without out is our first statin.
Statins are prescription drugs designed to lower cholesterol. They’re supposed to reduce our risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attack and death.
The trouble is their effectiveness is questionable at best. And there are a number of good side-effect related reasons to talk to your doctor about NOT taking them.
I’ll get back to those side effects shortly. But first let’s take a look at the new study that finds statins could be useless in seniors 65 and older.
Researchers from New York University School of Medicine took a deeper dive into the results from a clinical trial that ran from 1994 to 2002, which tracked the effectiveness of high blood pressure and cholesterol drugs.
Statins failed to prevent heart disease
They crunched the data from 2,867 adults 65 and older who had high blood pressure, but who hadn’t been diagnosed with hardening of the arteries. Around half of the volunteers were taking a common statin drug called pravastatin.
Now you’d expect the folks on the statin to have a much lower risk of heart disease. After all, that’s what the drugs are designed for.
But I bet you can guess what the researchers found.
There was so significant difference in heart disease rates between those taking the statin and those who weren’t. Seniors on the drug were just as likely to receive the diagnosis as those who weren’t, according to the research published in JAMA Internal Medicine.1
The drugs not working as advertised is bad enough, but it gets worse. It turns out the mortality rate—for any cause—was higher in those on the drug.
The researchers concluded “No benefit was found when a statin was given for primary prevention to older adults.”
Statins go from terrible to worse
But the statin story gets worse, because no matter what your age if you have mild to moderate high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol they may be nearly useless for you too.
Because while there’s no doubt that statins can lower your cholesterol there’s very little evidence that they substantially lower your risk for heart disease.
Some experts say statin success stories rely on statistical hijinks, using a math trick called relative risk reduction, to make it appear as if the drugs can substantially lower your chances of heart disease. When you look at absolute risk instead, the drugs show benefits for just about one percent of people.2
Now I’d be the first to admit if you might be among that one percent… one of the few who avoids a heart attack or stroke… then even a lousy one percent could seem attractive.
But I’d also be willing to bet you’ll change your mind when you hear about some of the potential side effects you’d be rolling the dice against.
Sickening statin side effects
Statins can rob your body of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 is an important nutrient which is used for energy production in every single cell in your body. In addition, CoQ10 is a powerful antioxidant that helps keep LDL (“bad”) cholesterol from oxidizing and becoming harmful.
In other words COQ10 is critical for heart health, and low levels of this vital nutrient can increase your risk for heart failure.
But CoQ10 isn’t the only nutrient statins can mess with. Experts say they could inhibit your ability to produce vitamin K2, which your body relies on to keep your arteries supple and plaque free.
K2 shuttles calcium from places it shouldn’t be, such as in your arteries, to places your body can really use it such as your bones and teeth.
Which means that instead of preventing a heart problem, your statin could contribute to atherosclerosis and heart failure.3
The statin and diabetes link
And then there’s the drug’s troubling link to type-2 diabetes.
It turns out regular statin use could send your risk for this devastating disease skyrocketing by nearly 50 percent.4 Statins increase insulin resistance, and at the same time hamper your pancreas’ ability to produce insulin sending your blood sugar climbing.
There are lots of good reasons to think twice about going on a statin drug, and this latest research revealing that they may be useless for seniors is just more evidence.
Don’t trade one health problem in for another. If your doctor wants you to go on a statin talk with him about alternatives. And if you’re already on one of these drugs have a chat with your doc about what you can do to transition off of it.
1. “Effect of Statin Treatment vs Usual Care on Primary Cardiovascular Prevention Among Older AdultsThe ALLHAT-LLT Randomized Clinical Trial,” JAMA Intern Med. Published online May 22, 2017
2. “How statistical deception created the appearance that statins are safe and effective in primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease,” Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol. 2015 Mar;8(2):201-10
3. “Statins stimulate atherosclerosis and heart failure: pharmacological mechanisms,” Expert Rev Clin Pharmacol. 2015 Mar;8(2):189-99
4. “Increased risk of diabetes with statin treatment is associated with impaired insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion: a 6 year follow-up study of the METSIM cohort,” Diabetologia. 2015 May;58(5):1109-17
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