Has your doctor prescribed a statin for you? Maybe you’re taking simvastatin (Zocor,) atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor), rosuvastatin (Crestor) or pravastatin (Pravachol). In 2011, more than 20 million Americans were taking the drugs that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) describe this way: “Statins are drugs used to lower cholesterol. Your body needs some cholesterol to work properly. But if you have too much in your blood, it can stick to the walls of your arteries, narrowing or even blocking them.” For some people, the goal is to control cholesterol without drugs.
Are statins for you?
That’s a nice and easy explanation. Statins aren’t recommended for pregnant patients or people with active or chronic liver disease, says NIH. They can also cause serious muscle problems and some may have interactions with other drugs. According to the Mayo Clinic, other side effects include nausea, diarrhea or constipation, while more serious complications include high blood sugar or type 2 diabetes and even memory loss—at our age, we simply don’t need one more factor that might impact our memories.
Unless you really change your diet or lifestyle to lower your cholesterol numbers, you’ll be married to this drug for life.
I control my cholesterol
I eat some meat, but I eat a healthy diet rich in fiber, fruits and veggies–and fish. I am not a medical professional and don’t dispense medical advice here. I’m just “sharing.” I had high cholesterol numbers two years ago, and my integrative physician prescribed three supplements, all readily available, some even at Costco. My numbers are in line now, but I can’t change family history, sadly. Please: Do not start taking any of these without a thorough discussion with your doctor.
Red yeast rice: a traditional Chinese medicine, it contains similar amounts of monacolin K, which is chemically identical to the active ingredient in the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin, according to NIH. Read more about red yeast rice, from NIH here, including cautions. Some people, like me, find that it can raise liver enzyme levels—regular blood work is recommended.
Phytosterols: Phytosterol (plant sterol and stanol) compounds occur naturally in plants that have similar structures to cholesterol, like nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains and even vegetable oils. Here’s information on a current study testing the effectiveness of plant sterols. Unlike red yeast rice, it appears that thus far, phytosterols have not been shown to have side effects.
Niacin: There are several variations on the niacin theme, including flush-free, and all may not work effectively— plus niacin in high doses may be dangerous. Your doctor will decide if niacin is right for you.
I hope this gives you “something to talk about” when you have your next check-up. Be well.