Cholesterol Drugs vs. Nutrients to Maintain Heart Health

hh-article-1.jpgThe benefits of statin drugs are questionable. Take the time to explore nutritional alternatives for heart health.

There are currently 25 million people around the world taking anti-cholesterol medications called statins. In 2006 alone, nearly $28 billion dollars were spent on these medications to improve heart health. Admittedly these drugs affect cholesterol test numbers, but are these drugs safe and truly effective in reducing death rates and saving lives? Doctors and researchers are beginning to question what the public has been told (and sold). Are the benefits from statin drugs significant enough to justify the high costs and the risks to men’s health from side effects? Should they be given routinely to most Americans? Are there effective nutritional alternatives that can improve cholesterol levels and heart health?

A famous cardiologist shows up in television advertisements claiming a statin drug can ‘reduce the risk of heart attack by 36%.’

These statistics may be misleading.

In a large clinical study, those who received a harmless placebo pill had a 3% risk of experiencing a heart attack, compared to a 2% risk by those who took a statin drug for a period of 3½ years. Should that be called a ‘36% reduction’? Or just a 1% difference among thousands of people over 3½ years? This translates to one fewer heart attack among 100 people taking a drug for over three years, while the other 99 people had no measurable health benefit, and some experienced dangerous side effects. Would you be as likely to take a drug with potentially dangerous side effects if you were told that it may help one person in one hundred who have had no previous heart disease? What if that one chance-in-one-hundred benefit would take several years to show up, require over a thousand doses of an expensive drug and possibly harm you? Would you take it?

Most people are shocked to hear that in the only large clinical trial of statin drugs funded by the federal government, they found no statistically significant benefit from these drugs. Is this what patients are told, in order to give informed consent, when they are prescribed a drug to reduce their cholesterol?

Nutrition and exercise are too often overlooked for prevention when popping a pill is easier. Moderate exercise five times a week is excellent for heart health. It also helps to keep your insulin levels stable by avoiding sodas, sugars and corn syrup.

Daily sunshine exposure to increase your body’s natural vitamin D actually reduces heart attack risk. The consumption of red wine and supplementation with ginger, cranberries, pomegranate juice, coconut oil, vitamin K and fish oil (for its EPA — a fatty acid that improves cholesterol ratios) can all help to lessen inflammation, reduce clotting and increase levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol. Looking beyond cholesterol numbers to a holistic view requires a multifaceted approach of exercise, valuable nutrients and stress reduction. When it comes to heart health, an ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of potentially dangerous ‘cure.’

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