Around 8 million UK adults take statin medication to help lower their cholesterol and avoid a heart attack. However, recent research has highlighted that the majority of heart attacks occur in people with normal levels of cholesterol.
How can this be the case?
We have been putting our focus almost solely on lowering cholesterol in recent years. Whilst research shows that statins are effective at lowering the level of our “bad” cholesterol, this is NOT the only measure we need to take. And research shows that statins don’t help otherwise healthy individuals. Finally, there are some pretty significant side effects to statin medication that we need to be aware of. These side effects are far too frequently down played, or not even looked for in the research.
What are the Side Effects of statins?
Firstly, we must remember that cholesterol is naturally produced within our body, and is vital for us to function properly; It is necessary for the production of vitamin D, bile acid, corticosteroids and sex steroids. Cholesterol also provides the structure for our cell membranes.
Statins work by inhibiting an enzyme involved in the production of cholesterol. But this enzyme is also involved in other processes within our bodies, such as aiding the production of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is an important mitochondrial antioxidant, which we require for energy production within our cells. It is not surprisingly then, that upsetting the production of cholesterol can have other unwanted side effects, reported in up to 30% of those taking statins. These can include:
- Myopathy (A rare side effect)
Type 2 diabetes can also occur as a side effect to taking statins in some postmenopausal women and in those who already have other metabolic risk factors.
What alternatives are there to improve our heart heart with Functional Medicine?
Consuming a mediterranean diet rich in antioxidants, brightly coloured vegetables and fruits, and good quality fats from foods like oily fish, avocados, and nuts can all help. Removing inflammatory foods such as processed meats, trans fats, refined carbohydrates and sugar, can also help.
In addition to dietary changes, getting 8 hours good quality sleep, losing weight, managing your stress, and taking regular exercise can all help greatly to promote long term heart health.
Sam’s Top 5 daily supplements for promoting heart health
- Chromium 250 mcg
- Vitamin D3 2000 iU
- Magnesium Glycinate 300 mg
- CoQ10 100-200 mg
- Alpha-lipoic acid 600 mg
There are a number of ways to improve the health of your heart that do not involve the use of statin medication. To learn more about how Functional Medicine could help you, please do not hesitate to contact me. Alternatively, you can arrange your free 15 minute introductory call today.