Take Statins to Lower Cholesterol

There are a lot of opinions online when it comes to taking statins. Cut through the noise when researching what's best for you

Statins are imperfect drugs when it comes to lowering cholesterol, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them

In the battle against cardiovascular disease, statins may not be a perfect drug, but they’re better than doing nothing

If you ever want to make some fast e-mail friends, just get onto some media site and praise a particular medication — sleeping pills, anti-depressants, high blood pressure or reflux or osteoporosis meds — anything, really. To maximize your e-mails, I’d suggest praising statins, those hugely popular cholesterol-lowering drugs that millions of you take. As soon as you do that, within hours, maybe minutes, you’ll be deluged with e-mails that will not only deride your sources, opinion and independence (the word “conspiracy” will appear in a lot of these messages), but some e-mailers will also question whether the man you call “Dad” was really your biological father.

You see, there’s a huge army of people out there I’d call anti-medicationists, who fervently believe that very few people, if any at all, should be using most of our most commonly used medications. And anti-medicationists have no bigger drug-dragon to slay these days than statins.

Pros and Cons of Taking Statins

Now to be fair, statins are imperfect drugs: They don’t improve LDL levels nearly as much as one would like, up to 10 per cent of people who use them can’t tolerate them, and statins can (in rare circumstances) produce life-threatening complications, which is why everyone on a statin should be monitored carefully at first and warned to watch for certain symptoms.

On the unavoidable other hand, though, statins beat whatever’s in second place for improving cholesterol levels by the proverbial country mile. Because what lies in second place is lifestyle adjustment, and multiple surveys (plus common sense) reveal that most people are simply not willing to make the necessary lifestyle adjustments. Nearly all would much rather take a pill, no matter what the risks of that pill may be.

This is why, for me, there’s a very important place for statins in fighting cardiovascular disease, especially since statins may have benefits on other conditions, such as lowering the risk of cancer, which has been documented in many studies. Most recently, a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine (that’s about as close to being God’s word as one of the Ten Commandments) found that people using statins had a “reduced risk of dying from cancer-related causes by up to 15 per cent” compared to people not using statins.

Bottom line: When debating whether to use a particular drug, and especially when being warned not to do so by people whose medical expertise consists of having watched every episode of Dr. Oz’s TV show, remember that every drug has some potential risks as well as benefits. The only person to balance those for you is yourself.

Dr. Art Hister is a medical writer and health analyst for Global TV.

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.