So here I was, with two stents in my arteries, with some super secret formulation of anti-cholesterol antibodies in my system and nothing but questions on my mind.
Throughout the whole process, I had to make decisions based on trust and faith. Knowing what I do, I would not make the same decisions today.
It started with trust and ignorance. It had to be so. As I passed fifty, I was told that I should start taking statins. I had no problems or symptoms but I was told that I am at risk and starting to take some drugs for the rest of my life is the answer. I should have questioned it already then, but I trusted my doctor. At my yearly checkup she said that I should start taking cholesterol lowering medication. My total cholesterol is a little high and it is better to be safe than sorry. The HDL to LDL ratio is very good, but the total is borderline high. I was also offered and went to a dietician’s seminar. I had to go through some seriously retarded exercises arranging rubber mashed potatoes and vegetables to really drive home the idea of the food pyramid. I was told to cut back on dietary fat, eat lots of fiber and, just in case I missed the point, to cut back on dietary fat, especially the saturated kind. This was puzzle number one.
Not only do I not eat too much fat, but I eat exactly what my wife does and her cholesterol levels are in the lower range of normal. It just did not make sense. If diet is the main contributor, what can explain the significant difference? And if it is something else, then what is it? If there are personal, ethnic and racial (i.e.: genetic) differences, then how can we use a uniform scale to decide what is acceptable and what is so dangerously high that it requires medical intervention? Since I don’t like the idea of life long drug dependence on principle, I resisted the idea, but I trusted my doctor and when she sent me to a cardiologist, I got the same message from that even more authoritative source, a specialist.
That all changed when I got my stents. The statins I was taking were supposed to prevent that, yet nobody was surprised when it didn’t! As if they knew. Now I really wanted to understand how statins work. The answer is both simple and outrageous: it impedes the liver’s ability to make cholesterol. That did not make much sense to me, and the more I learn about it, the less sense it makes. Cholesterol must be important for our body, otherwise it would not be created by it. Arteriosclerosis is not caused by the amount of cholesterol in our blood but by plaques in the arteries. The plaques are formed when cholesterol is trying to repair damage caused by inflammation in the arterial walls. Shouldn’t we try to focus our attention on the inflammation, its causes and the mechanism of their formation?
Isn’t blaming cholesterol akin to shooting the messenger? Yes, where there are plaques, there is cholesterol, but blaming it for the plaques is like blaming firemen for fires. There is a lot of them around fires.
Shouldn’t we try to understand the why and the how before we start to supress the normal functioning of a healthy organ? And I asked these questions before I learned about the side effects of statins. I kept asking questions and finding answers. As it happens, we have most of the answers. Here is a short list of what I learned:
- We know that the theory connecting dietary cholesterol to heart disease is highly questionable – if not outright fraudulent – science. It is based on a fudged study of Ansel Keys, who simply dropped the data that did not comply with his theory, as described in this video and many others.
It is analyzed in depth by Nina Teicholz in her book The Big Fat Surprise.
- We know that the food pyramid is not just outdated, but fundamentally wrong and outright harmful. It should simply be thrown out.
- We know that there is a correlation between high levels of cholesterol and heart disease. We should be able to expect our scientists and doctors to understand that correlation is not causation. In fact, there is no proper explanation from the medical establishment about the problems or the solutions offered.
- We don’t know much about ethnic, let alone individual genetic variation of what can be considered acceptable lipid levels. I always suspected that we cannot have a uniform cure for very different people. Cholesterol levels are like our height or the size of our feet and its metabolism like our ability to jump or think.
- I learned that testing is not simple. A typical lipid test measures only three things: HDL and LDL cholesterol plus triglycerides. Now we know that each of these tested substances have several variants, best described in this lecture. Not all LDL is bad and not al HDL is good.
- I learned that statins are blunt instruments. By blocking the creation of the enzyme in the liver producing cholesterol, they are barely addressing the symptoms while creating a whole set of new problems in the process.
- I learned that lipid level recommendations are a bit arbitrary, and tend to change in a direction to include an ever growing number of people ‘in need’ of statins. Because it ‘might’ help.
- We know that statins do NOT reduce long term mortality rates. Yes, in some cases they may decrease mortality from coronary heart disease, but cause problems that increase mortality from other causes, mostly created by the side effects of statin medications.
- We know that statins have quite serious side effects. Memory loss, liver damage, muscle deterioration, lowered testosterone, increased predisposition to type 2 diabetes. All of these can be explained IN DETAIL as the direct consequences of the ways statins work.
Statins, in fact, have hundreds of known side effects.
- We know that statins are the second largest earner and the most profitable prescription drugs earning 20 billion dollars a year for the drug companies.
- We know that the drug companies spend on average 50% more on marketing than on R&D. We know that they find all sorts of creative ways to bribe doctors. A friend told me that his sister, a family physician, was a regular drug junket junkie after 1989, when the drug companies were establishing their marketing territories in Eastern Europe.
Here is a great take on the problem from John Oliver:
Marketing to Doctors- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
The vested financial interest of the pharmaceutical companies is overwhelming. Their incentives are no different from the incentives of recreational drug pushers:
The creation of lifelong dependence on their products with no regard to the consequences.
- We know that lifestyle, diet and stress levels are the most important contributors to cardio health and problems.
- We know that when it comes to diet, carbohydrates are the culprits, not saturated fats. LCHF diets reduce plaque buildups.
- We know that dietary supplements can help more than prescription drugs. The most important ones are listed at the end of this presentation.
But I still have many questions. The most important questions I should have for my health care providers.
- How is it possible, that I had to learn all I know now on my own?
- How is it possible that my family doctor never heard of particle testing before I asked her about it? (Lp-PLA2 Test (For Risk of Heart Attack & Stroke)
- How is it possible that my cardiologist, the expert, never really considered more advanced tests until I asked for them and then never considered or explained to me the results?
- How is it possible that nutritionists are still preaching the food pyramid like religious catechism without ever mentioning that it is not only questionable, but actively challenged by recent studies?
The answer is sadly obvious: because they are part of the medical establishment, the leviathan their existence depends on. In these centrally controlled hierarchical organizations things change slowly.
It doesn’t matter what tests are available to better predict my actual risks if the prescribed response to any result is the same: worship the food pyramid and take more prescription drugs! I was put on statins the moment I was approaching the arbitrary limits set by (basically) the drug industry. The idea was to save me from heart problems. When statins clearly did NOT save me from the problems, the answer was obvious: take more!
Without even considering the possibility that statins may not have been the right idea in the first place.
That is clearly the sign of a religious mindset. If your prayers were not answered, you did not pray hard enough.
I like this post for its title: “Recent Developments in Blood Testing that Every Life Underwriter Should Know!” It seems that my undertaker have more use for these tests than my doctors. Yes, the pun was intended.
We know that statins cut the pathways to the creation of Coenzyme Q10, an essential protector against muscle myopia.
With hundreds of articles pointing out the problem, with ones titled “Statin Users, CoQ10 Is Your New Best Friend,” how is it possible, that none of my health care professionals suggested that I take some of these supplements – at least as long as I take statins?
I could go on ranting, but I can do much better. In a separate post, I created a long-long list of the sources of my newfound knowledge. It took me a while to put it together and I had to stop with the feeling that I only scratched the surface. It is a rather large collection and there are hundreds more if you care to look for them on the web. I hope I found the best ones overall, and even within that set, I provided some hints in the beginning to point to the most useful/important ones. The problem is serious. Share that page with anyone who could have use of it. That is about half the world.
I have to stop here to make something clear: I really, truly, honestly like both my family doctor and my cardiologist. I could imagine either or both as a close friend. They are both very decent, very professional doctors. I don’t really blame them for my mishaps, or for what I think were shortcomings in my treatment. I blame the system they are part, and in a way, a product of.
My next post will try to identify the problems of that system. In the meantime, go wild with the bibliography, and if you have a question, do not hesitate to ask.
This post is part of a series about health care.
You can find the rest here:
A heartfelt story – the personal aspects of the story
Some heartfelt discoveries – what I learned once I looked into it
A hearty bibliography – A seemingly unending list of references to those discoveries
A heartfelt analysis – A critical exposé of the root causes of the problem
My heartfelt wishes – A libertarian answer to the problems
A heartfelt letter – A letter of frustration with a libertarian message
Healthy thoughts – Final thoughts and a the personal aspects of the story
Please share this post with anybody who could benefit from it and click on ‘sign up’ above so that you will not miss any of the posts.