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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).


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


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!

137 thoughts on “Worried about cholesterol and/or statins

  • I was interested in your comment that LDL would increase if you have cancer. I had basil cell on my face diagnosed early late Dec 22 and excised Jan 25, probably had it since 10/22 when I noticed the pimple that turned out to be cancer.

    My LDL went from 130-140 to 150 TO 170 (2 tests – one for advanced cholesterol test), my CRP-hs went to 1.7 moderate risk (usually well under 1) and first ever homocysteine 11.4 H (although I’m 73 so I think the test range of <11.4 was wrong). I surmise that all 3 were likely up a little because of my cancer hanging around for 3-4 months + before testing? Is this reasonable?

  • Hallo Dr Zoe Harcombe,
    I have been trying to find anything related to cholesterol, statins and side effects of statins related to eye disease, specifically pigment dispersion syndrome (PDS) and retinal issues, like retina detachments etc.
    I have a relatively good understanding of the dangers statins pose to the health of cells in the body, i.e. blocking the mevalonate pathway etc. as per your articles.
    I have been on very high doses of statins for almost 30 years, as I have Familial Hypercholesterolemia. I also have myopia, which is a major cause for PDS, which can lead to Pigmentum Glaucoma.
    I am worried about my eyesight as I have also had a retina detachment 10 years ago
    What I would like to know if there are any medical research related to this combination, and also want to understand if statins can cause damage / block cells in the eyes from staying healthy.
    I am considering stopping the use of statins.

    • Hi Lawrence
      I’m sorry but I’ve not looked into this at all. I’ve just searched pubmed (the academic database) and nothing was returned either.
      Best wishes – Zoe

  • In 2016 the drug manufacturer Eli Lilly wrote of $90 million of research and development costs after its new drug evacetrapib failed to prevent one single case of heart attack, stroke, by-pass surgery, or angina—even though it successfully doubled levels of ‘good’ cholesterol and lowered ‘bad’ cholesterol. Also in Pfizer developed a PCSK9 inhibitor called bococizumab which turned into a failure at an estimated loss of $300 million. Bococizumab was scrapped after the group of patients taking the drug experienced higher number of deaths than the group on a placebo; even though, the drug reduced the bad cholesterol by 60%. In 2008 Pfizer suffered an $800 million catastrophic failure with the Cholesterol Ester Transfer Protein (CETP) inhibitor torcetrapib. Torcetrapib, when administered alone, showed to increase HDL levels without significantly affecting LDL levels. The hope was that this biochemical data would translate into a heart-protective effect in humans. However, a clinical trial showed that when provided in combination with another cholesterol-lowering medication called a statin, torcetrapib treatment was associated with a 50% increase in deaths from cardiovascular disease compared to placebo. On June 29, 2020, a study derived from information obtained from PubMed, regulatory reports, company websites and showed that PCSK9 inhibitors did NOT improve cardiovascular health. Moreover, Evolocumab (Repatha) increased of ALL-CAUSE MORTALITY. IN SUMMARY: Over a billion dollar’s research [studies] indicate that the HDL/LDL HYPOTHESIS is a complete failure. It is a fact that increasing the good cholesterol and lowering the bad showed no benefits while some studies’ participants experienced sudden deaths. Good luck

  • Is exosome an covid 19 the same thing.
    What is an exosome

  • I have always had (at least from age 24 when my cholesterol was measured while I was in the hospital being treated for an acute kidney infection) HDL over 150 when measured in a fasting state. I was told then that was terrible to “eat no fat” which I did for years much to my poor health. Later, in my late forties I was told that it was good. Now, 67, I have read that it is terrible again. From reading your articles, it appears that high fasting cholesterol level may mean very little. Or, it may mean I need to increase the ability for my cells to be able to access LDL cholesterol. Which recently has become higher , also around 150. Any comments on what this confusing pattern may mean. I have not had genetic testing by the way. At one point, in my late 30’s I was on statins for about one month, felt terrible and then read some research and got off and never looked back.

    • Hi Sharon
      This is why one of the references in the post takes you to an article showing that cholesterol testing is out by 19% anyway:
      It’s also why I don’t think that cholesterol testing is helpful – it just gives people worry that they would otherwise not have.
      Your cholesterol would change if measured at different times of the day, let alone different life stages. Better things to test – in my view – would be your HbA1c i.e. how much sugar you’ve had in your blood stream over the past 3 months. If this is high, I would worry!

      Best wishes – Zoe

  • 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.


    • 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.

      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.” (

      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 (

      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

      • 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,


  • 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?

    • 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

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