Statins are being prescribed by doctors in the UK at higher rates than before and the catchment level may soon be lowered to include patients at just a perceived 10% risk of heart disease within 10 years.
But should you really be taking them and have you understood the benefits/risks of doing so?
Here I am going to arm you with a few questions for you to challenge your doctor.
1. What is the heart attack prevention rate for someone with no previous history (known as primary prevention)?
2. What are the alternative ways of lowering LDL cholesterol?
3. What evidence is there, not funded by pharmaceutical companies, that cholesterol causes heart disease?
4. Are you being incentivised e.g. with extra payments, for prescribing statins?
5. What are the common side-effects associated with statins?
By asking these simple questions and taking notes you should be able to gauge whether the doctor is fully aware of why he is offering statins. I’m not suggesting whether or not you should take them, just that you weigh up their validity.
The answers to the questions are:
1. 2 fatal cardiac events are thought to be prevented if 1000 people take statins for 3 years. Yes, just 2! There is some evidence for statins preventing secondary prevention. Grenoble University, analysing all published statin studies since 2006, said statins showed â€œno benefitâ€ in heart disease prevention and caused â€œpotentially fatalâ€ muscle weakness.
2. NHS Choices recommend diet, exercise, giving up smoking and cutting down alcohol. These measures are likely to have the best effect on your risk of heart disease.
3. There is very little strong evidence that LDL cholesterol causes heart disease. What’s far more a predictor is low levels of HDL, the so-called “good” cholesterol, but there’s no drug to increase this.
4. Are doctors prescribing statins for extra money or is the motivation truly about health?
5. A extraordinary high percentage complain of muscle and joint issues. The medical industry denies everything with sponsored research.