Worried about cholesterol and/or statins

The vast majority of comments I get on my blogs are about cholesterol and/or statins. I find myself saying the same things over and again, so this post is the one that I’ll now refer queries to – it should answer most of the worries that people seem to have. My top tip is: don’t have a cholesterol test and then you’ll have one fewer thing to worry about.

Worried about high cholesterol

Many of the comments start with people saying that they have high cholesterol. First of all – do you? Or are you part of the scam to make you think that your cholesterol is high because normal has been re-defined? This post may help.

If your cholesterol is anywhere on those normal charts (2-10 mmol/l = 77-387 mg/dl) – you may like to stop worrying.

You should also be aware that the blood cholesterol test doesn’t actually measure LDL (the thing they call ‘bad cholesterol’ – which is not even cholesterol – it’s a Low Density Lipoprotein) – they guess it. See point iv here. You should also be aware that even the total cholesterol, which they do try to measure, is known to be out by as much as 19%.

If you actually have high cholesterol (e.g. 10 mmol/l = 387 mg/dl or above) OR your cholesterol is high for you (i.e. relative to what you know yours normally is – your normal – not the made up normal), remember that your body makes cholesterol for good reason and consider the following: are you injured? stressed? pregnant? recovering from an operation? illness? Any of these will encourage your body to make more cholesterol.

Have you had a cholesterol test taken at the end of winter? in the heart of winter? Vitamin D is made by sunlight synthesizing cholesterol on the skin when you expose your skin to sunlight. Your cholesterol may simply be ‘high’ right now because you haven’t turned it into vitamin D (it’s the low vitamin D that will harm you – not the ‘high’ cholesterol – the high cholesterol can be a sign that you’re lacking vitamin D). Have another test at the end of the summer and make sure you give your body the chance to make some vitamin D with healthy sun exposure (not too much, not burning).

If you know (or think) that you have Familial Hypercholesterolemia (FH) – take a look at this blog post. It may give you a different perspective on FH. High LDL can be the symptom – not the problem – the problem can be the exact opposite of what is assumed – that LDL is not getting to the cells (including heart cells) where it is vitally needed.

Check out these charts too – read them carefully – yes HIGH cholesterol is associated with LOW deaths and LOW cholesterol is associated with HIGH deaths for men and women, CVD deaths and all-cause mortality. (It’s the same for saturated fat, by the way).

Statins

I’m the wrong person to ask about statins – that’s your decision. It’s the easiest decision in the world for me – a statin will never pass my lips. This may help explain my position – and the fact that I know the utterly vital role that cholesterol plays in the human body and I trust my body to do what it was designed to do WAY more than I trust pharmaceutical companies to forgo profit in my best interests.

You may also like to read this. If you are in the highest risk group possible (men of a certain age who have already had a heart attack), for every 100 of these men given statins for five years, 1.8 men will live, on average, an extra 6 months and 98.2 will gain no benefit. The intelligent thinking in the world of cholesterol is that any ‘benefit’ of statins for this small, very high risk group, results from anti-inflammatory properties of statins; the cholesterol reduction being a serious and unwelcome side effect.

To look at this another way, some September 2015 research showed that you can take statins for years and you might gain an extra 3 days. Again – likely an anti-inflammatory effect; the cholesterol lowering being a serious price to pay.

Talking of side effects, these are substantially understated and those who mention statin side effects are viciously attacked. In March 2014, The Guardian reported Professor Rory Collins as saying “We have really good data from over 100,000 people that show that the statins are very well tolerated. There are only one or two well-documented [problematic] side effects.” Myopathy, or muscle weakness, occurred in one in 10,000 people, he said, and there was a small increase in diabetes.

As a result of the fall-out from this attack on two doctors who dared to mention statin side effects, it was revealed that Professor Rory Collins’s CTSU team, working on statin (and other) studies, has received c. £268 MILLION from pharmaceutical companies that make statins. If you want to know about statin side effects, just read a patient leaflet – by law they have to be more honest than researchers who withhold side-effect data:

The patient leaflet for Lipitor – the most lucrative statin, indeed the most lucrative drug ever in the history of mankind, states the following:

“Common side effects (may affect up to 1 in 10 people) include:

inflammation of the nasal passages, pain in the throat, nose bleed

allergic reactions

increases in blood sugar levels (if you have diabetes continue careful monitoring of your blood sugar levels), increase in blood creatine kinase

headache

nausea, constipation, wind, indigestion, diarrhoea

joint pain, muscle pain and back pain

blood test results that show your liver function can become abnormal

You may also want to google “Statin diabetes lawsuit” to see how that one is gathering pace in the US. Fancy type 2 diabetes with your statin?! Other statin side effects include loss of libido (hello boys?!), loss of energy, muscle fatigue, muscle aches, weakness, loss of memory, loss of cognitive ability – generally feeling that your get up and go has got up and gone – and taken your mind with it. Former NASA astronaut Dr Duane Graveline has written of his experience here and here.

Do also check the patient leaflet for the over the age of 70 caution. I don’t think many doctors are aware of this. If you’re wondering about whether or not you should be on a statin and you’re over the age of 70/approaching this age – even the leaflet will caution against this. That will be because HIGH cholesterol is known to be particularly associated with LOW deaths in more elderly people (and LOW cholesterol with HIGH deaths).

Watch this (just half an hour) to see a doctor tear apart the nonsense in the cholesterol, statins, dietary fat world.

More reading?

If you’d like more free reading, check out anything on cholesterol/statins on Dr Malcolm Kendrick’s site and/or Dr John Briffa’s site.

For books, check out The Great Cholesterol Con; The Great Cholesterol Myth; Ignore the Awkward; Fat and cholesterol are good for you; just for starters – there are many more.

I hope that this answers most of the queries!

128 thoughts on “Worried about cholesterol and/or statins

  • avatar
    October 28, 2019 at 12:27 pm
    Permalink

    Hello Zoe,

    Very good articles on your site!!! Mostly in line with the knowledge I gained over last decade. However, I just received results of my blood tests and GP concluded 6.5 Cholesterol is a bit high. We agreed to take a complex look. She did the blood test because I complained about hair thinning and quite a significant hair loss over last 3 months. Do you think that increased cholesterol level might go hand in hand somehow? I read your other articles and some comments about minerals, adrenals, thyroid connection to Cholesterol. Given my history of extensive digestion problems, adrenal fatigue, week spleen, I start to think that Cholesterol is just trying to repair some of these problems and hair loss is just another symptom something is out of balance.

    Thank you again for great articles.

    Mike

    Reply
    • avatar
      October 28, 2019 at 3:30 pm
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      Hi Mike
      Many thanks for your kind words.

      First, 6.5 isn’t high as one of the posts linked to from this one shares. https://www.zoeharcombe.com/2014/06/diabetes-cholesterol-bp-normal-is-no-longer-normal/

      On the hair thinning/loss – this is more typically associated with low cholesterol or taking statins “we do know that cholesterol is an important building block for steroid hormones, which play a role in hair growth.” (https://www.health.harvard.edu/cholesterol/do-statins-cause-hair-loss)

      There could be a different problem between “extensive digestive problems” and hair loss – if you’re not getting the nutrients that you need because you’re not eating them or not absorbing them, this could affect hair health.

      I’ve just done a summary post on what we must eat and where we find essential nutrients – it might be of interest (https://www.zoeharcombe.com/2019/10/national-food-strategy-call-for-evidence/)

      I can’t give advice but, in my opinion, hair loss is unlikely to be an issue with cholesterol of 6.5 and that’s normal not high anyway!

      I hope this is of interest
      Best wishes – Zoe

      Reply
      • avatar
        November 15, 2019 at 12:17 pm
        Permalink

        Hello Zoe,

        I appreciate your prompt response, and to be honest, it’s a bit comforting to read the articles and not to worry about cholesterol values. And yes, I’ve been dealing with digestion problems for a long time and I am only 35. Not having enough nutrients is very likely to be the reason for my hair loss.

        Your reference article for food to be eaten confirms that what I am eating is correct, I just have to find a way so that those nutrients are actually absorbed rather than undigested and eventually becoming toxins. I know you can’t give advice, but again, I appreciate your previous response and knowledge you share via your articles.

        Have a great day,

        Mike

        Reply
  • avatar
    July 21, 2019 at 3:27 am
    Permalink

    I am a 40 year old female. I just had a heart attack this last Sunday. I did not have any blockages. My BP was high and my cholesterol was in the 170s. I am now on both medications. The doctors always put the fear of God into you about not using medications. I am pretty sure I will get off the statin, but what about the blood pressure. What can I do about that?

    Reply
    • avatar
      July 21, 2019 at 2:54 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Nancy
      I’m so sorry to hear about what has just happened. That must have been a huge shock.

      If 170s refers to total cholesterol – that’s low. That and no blockages should puzzle your health care providers. Hopefully you’re now seeing a cardiologist who can investigate further. There may be a genetic condition going on here – more to do with the heart itself and less to do with the ‘plumbing’, as heart docs are known to describe the blood vessel system.

      Think of blood pressure like a pressure cooker (if you’ve ever used one). The more ‘stuff’ (veg and water) in the pressure cooker, the more likely it is to ‘go off.’ The more water and weight the body has in the same sized body, the more likely it is to have high blood pressure. If you are overweight, your doctors will no doubt try to help you to do something about this. One of the best ways to drop blood pressure quickly (this is not advice – it’s just a nutritional fact) is reducing carbohydrates in the diet. The body can store c. 500g (1lb) of carbohydrate at any one time and every gram of carbohydrate is stored with approximately 4g of water. That’s 5lb of carbohydrate and water that can be stored together at any one time. It is commonly found that avoiding starchy carbohydrate (bread, pasta, rice, cereal, potatoes) for anything beyond 24 hours can have a significant impact on blood pressure.

      I hope you’ve got good medics looking after you and giving you good care and advice.
      Best wishes – Zoe

      Reply

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