Bartecchi: Statins and your heart
Heart disease was the leading cause of death in the United States this past year, the deadliest cause since 1950. Followed by cancer and COVID-19.
Recent data show that the greatest increases in cardiovascular deaths have been among Asian, black and Hispanic populations. Cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, and smoking contributed to this increase.
Coronary heart disease, which includes clogged arteries or atherosclerosis of the heart, is the number one cause of death in the United States because it can lead to heart attacks, according to the CDC. Eighty percent of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, is preventable. Controlling cholesterol, controlling blood pressure, quitting smoking, exercising and losing weight can significantly reduce heart attacks and strokes.
Some people can manage their cholesterol through healthy eating, weight loss, and exercise, but this doesn't work for everyone. A class of drugs known as statins is often the first line of treatment after lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of death from heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, more than 200 million people worldwide take statins to maintain heart health. Statins have been proven safe and effective for decades, and most people tolerate them well. However, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there have been some rumors about taking statins that have caused concern. These myths surround diabetes, memory loss and cataracts. However, Hopkins doctors claim that research tells us that statins do not induce diabetes, cause memory loss or cataracts in humans.
Some people mistakenly turn to over-the-counter dietary supplements that claim to lower cholesterol. A recent Cleveland Clinic study showed that low-dose (5 mg) statins were more effective at lowering cholesterol than fish oil, garlic, turmeric, phytosterols, and red rice yeast. Also, statins are as safe as supplements but do not do much to lower cholesterol. Of course, for very high cholesterol levels, it may be necessary to increase statins or add other prescription medications.
Recently, there has been a lot of marketing of another “supplement” that may accompany statin therapy. One such supplement is CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10). However, CoQ10 has not been shown to help prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, reduce muscle pain that statins rarely cause, or even cancer, Parkinson's disease, and other diseases for which it has been claimed to be effective in the past.
A comprehensive review of CoQ10 in 2020 recommended more research and larger clinical trials to draw conclusions about its ability to reduce statin-induced symptoms. A recent Harvard Health report was titled “CoQ10 Supplements Unlikely to Benefit Statin Users.”
Unfortunately, CoQ10 can interact with insulin and may not be compatible with certain types of cancer treatments. It can also interact with “blood thinners” such as warfarin, making them less effective. A popular marketing brand claims “3x better absorption”. But if you don't need it or it doesn't do you any good and might cause problems, what difference does it make if the absorption is better. Even worse, lawsuits are being filed by buyers of CoQ10 suing a company for violating certain laws or falsely advertising that their supplements have a higher rate of absorption. Although not actually found guilty, the company settled for $1.3 million.
So, if you need to take a statin because you have coronary heart disease risk (your doctor can determine that risk using a simple formula (the ASCVD Risk Estimator)), or if you have known coronary heart disease with elevated cholesterol, then you Most likely to benefit from taking statins.
Dr. Carl E. Bartecchi, MD, Pueblo physician and clinical professor of medicine, professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.