“The Truth About Statins”

“The Truth About Statins”

By: Holly L. Thacker, MD • Posted on April 22, 2012

Extra, extra, read all about it! On April 24, 2012, Brown University's women's health cardiologist, Dr. Barbara H. Roberts, published a tell all book about the number one prescribed medicine in America, the cholesterol lowering statins, titled, "The Truth About Statins: Risks and Alternatives to Cholesterol-lowering Drugs" (Pocket Books).

This is an easy to read book that outlines in clear, understandible fashion important information about reducing your risk for heart disease, individualizing your care, and being aware of some of the well known and some of the lesser well known side effects of statin medications. She describes real life patients from her practice and provides some cautionary tales.

Dr. Roberts is to be congratulated and hailed for being cognizant and candid about the increased risk for diabetes in women on statin medications long before the media started to report on it. She outlines her concerns about the JUPITER trial, a study that compared cholesterol lowering medicine to placebo in men and women with normal LDL-cholesterol levels and elevated inflammation markers; a study which is often cited in support of starting people over age 60 on potent statin medications who have normal cholesterol levels. And she makes the compelling case that many of us physicians who specialize in women's health have been saying for some time, that women derive LESS benefit from statin drugs than men do!

Many folks DO need statin medications and many do not. There are side effects and risk/benefit profiles to all medications. The words of the late, great cardiologist, Dr. Bernadine Healy, the first female head of the American Heart Association, who wrote in response to Vioxx being removed from the market, still rings in my ears, "We may all be so safe from medication side effects, that we may be unsafe!" That wise statement crystalizes the crux of the problem. One can not avoid all risks of medications and ignore the benefits of treatment leaving oneself at greater risk from the ravages of the underlying condition; however, it is very important to avoid the risks of medications when lifestyle changes will treat that medical problem. Some medical problems can be treated with lifestyle alone and many medical conditions need a combination of lifestyle and medication to combat the problem.

Dr. Roberts makes a very cogent argument for those with mild to moderate elevations in cholesterol levels to avoid statins and simply exercise and follow the proven, heart healthy Mediterranean diet to reduce lipid levels, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease. She even includes some yummy recipes like my favorite Wasabi-Roasted Salmon and whole wheat fettuccine Pasta with Avocado Sauce.

-Dr. Holly L. Thacker