Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, with approximately 610,000 Americans dying from it every year. It has become a popular theory that high cholesterol levels can have a negative impact on your heart health, so, in order to combat this, many people turn towards cholesterol-lowering drugs to lower their risk of heart disease.
However, it turns out that one of America’s most popular cholesterol lowering drugs, called statins, is not only ineffective at lowering cholesterol, but it also causes a variety of unpleasant side effects and has even been linked to cancer.
What Are Statins?
Statins are a widely prescribed drug that is used to lower LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, which is a major contributor to heart disease. Despite the fact that their main purpose is to lower levels of LDL cholesterol, many studies have found statins to be ineffective at doing this.
One study published in the journal Vascular Health and Risk Management found that statins were incredibly ineffective at lowering cholesterol levels in patients with heart disease. Researchers found that statins only reduced cholesterol levels to the desired amount in 18% of the patients that were given them, showing that they are ineffective more than 80% of the time.
Aside from them being ineffective at lowering cholesterol, they also cause a variety of unpleasant and even harmful side effects. Some of these include:
- Memory loss
- High blood sugar
- Increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Statins are also associated with more serious side effects such as myositis and rhabdomyolysis, which are conditions that cause inflammation of the muscles and can lead to serious muscle damage. Rhabdomyolysis can also cause damage to the kidneys which can result in kidney failure or even death.
Several studies have also associated taking statins with a higher risk of cancer. One study published in the journal Current Oncology found that statins increased the risk of cancer in the elderly and in people with prostate or breast cancer. Researchers also found that statins caused tumor progression in people with bladder cancer.
The connection between statins and cancer is said to stem from the way that statins effect the body’s immune system. Researchers believe that, since statins increase the body’s production of T cells (white blood cells that fight off infection) it weakens other immune responses in the body, leaving it more susceptible to developing cancer.
Cholesterol and the Body
The use of statins and other drugs became popular mainly due to the mainstream conception of cholesterol and the effect that it has on the human body. Many people fasley believe that cholesterol on its own is responsible for the clogging of the arteries that leads to heart disease. Dr. Beverly Teter, a lipid biochemist at the University of Maryland, says that this is due to a mistake scientists many years ago.
Teter believe that cholesterol was wrongly blamed for heart disease when scientists noticed high levels of cholesterol in a damaged blood vessel. She believes that cholesterol was put there to fix a problem that was actually caused by inflammation.
“It’s the inflammation in the vessels that start the lesion,” she said. “The body then sends the cholesterol like a scab to cover over it to protect the blood system and the vessel wall from further damage.”
Teter suggests, in order to prevent heart disease, to not choose foods that are low in fat, but instead to choose foods that are high in anti-inflammatories. These include sources of omega-3 fatty acids and natural saturated fats. She also suggests avoiding sources of inflammation-causing trans fat.
Foods that are high in inflammation-busting properties include:
- Flaxseed oil
- Wild salmon
- Hickory nuts
Make sure to eat all of the foods mentioned above, while avoiding these inflammation-causing ones:
- Deep-fried foods
- Pie crust
- Cake frosting
- Coffee creamer
In order to avoid inflammation-causing trans fats, make sure to not eat any deep fried or heavily processed foods. Not only do these foods cause inflammation, but they boost your bad cholesterol levels as well, leading to a combination that is sure to cause heart disease.
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