Do We Really Need Statins?

Katherine Marple

| Mar 22, 2014

Ten years ago, I was asked by my endocrinologist to begin using statins to lower my cholesterol. I was barely over 20 years of age and was afraid of possible side or long-term effects. I was nervous about adding yet another drug to my list of daily medications, so I told him I would consider it and went home feeling like a medical disaster. Hello, diabetes complications: We meet again.

At the time, I had limited knowledge of statins. I was very young and didn't believe I would even be on the high-cholesterol spectrum until I was much closer to middle-aged. In my limited research, I had read on numerous websites that once you begin using statins, you should never come off of them. Since I hadn't bore any children yet and the use of statins during pregnancy is linked to birth defects, I was completely against starting the cholesterol-reducing regimen. In honesty, I was likely looking for any excuse to say no to the prescription. Instead, I tried to lower my LDL through exercise and dietary changes, but my efforts didn't seem to make a difference.

I cut out processed foods, added whole grains, increased my vegetable intake, and exercised as often as I could manage. I strictly limited alcohol and tried to lower my stress. Despite this, every six months my blood panels returned results that were less than great. Here I am today, 29 years of age and fighting off LDL readings close to 200. Doctors are again asking me to begin using statins. And, once again, I am fighting to face this.

During a recent blood pressure check, my pharmacist informed me that he was using prescription statins, even though his cholesterol was merely "above optimal levels." Multiple other doctors I've spoken with over the years have stated that all people with diabetes should be using statins, even if their cholesterol isn't high, because it will lower their risk of heart disease and stroke. But, is the usage of these drugs increasing because of their glorious results or have the pharmaceutical companies trained our nation into simply becoming repeat customers?

For these past 12 months, I've put my health front and center, right next to raising my kids. I'm exercising every single day, with two or three days per week at high intensities through rigorous Zumba toning with quick-stepped dancing and weights. My blood pressure has dropped, my heart palpitations have subsided, and I feel stronger and healthier. But, my last lab showed that darned cholesterol just hanging in there, refusing to give up its course in my blood.

A month ago, I hired a dietitian to help me assess what I'm eating that could be contributing to my high cholesterol. But, after documenting an honest layout of everything I ate during a typical three day stint, there was little that needed to be changed. I don't do processed foods, no fried foods, no oils or dressings, lots of veggies, some organics, low carbohydrates, very little sugar, etc. Based off this, there wasn't much in my diet that I needed to address.

We decided to make very incremental adjustments. We increased leafy greens to include bok choy and more Brussels sprouts, and added chia and flax seeds. We also replaced eggs with egg whites and added more salmon. I do have a very strong love of coffee, which includes a cream or two per cup. Something as tiny as that dollop of cream adds 2g of saturated fat per tablespoon. A couple of weeks later, I've significantly cut my coffee intake altogether.

The only noticeable dietary change seems to be coming from the addition of chia seeds. Every time I drink my 32 oz cup of water, mixed with 3 tablespoons of chia seeds, I feel better almost immediately. This especially helps after an intense cardio session, because chia helps to repair muscles. But, are these magical little seeds really helping to lower my bad cholesterol, or am I just fighting a losing battle of the genes?

I have to consider the confusing results on whether saturated fat versus sugar intake is to blame for elevated cholesterol. I figure since we haven't been able to decide for the past 50 years, why not severely reduce both to cut risks as much as possible either way. I'm not really sure what else to do.

A family member, working as a nutritionist and whole health coach, stated that cholesterol has a lot to do with hormone balancing. Since insulin is a hormone and type 1s don't produce it on our own, our hormones are generally out of balance on a chronic basis. She suggested getting my hormones checked through another blood panel and begin working my cholesterol levels from that aspect, focusing on cleaning my liver. This is an idea I hadn't considered beforehand and I'm researching to find what are available practices to help me achieve my goals.

I don't really know if any of this is making a change to my blood results. My next lab test is scheduled for mid-May. If all of this effort doesn't work, I'm not sure what else I can add or change to lower my cholesterol. I realize I sound like a pouting toddler, stamping my feet, but I simply don't want to add another medication to my day. But I also don't want to continue to increase my risk of heart disease, when diabetes has already checked that box on the list of complications. It's been a long journey and I'm ready to say goodbye to those LDLs. Where is that clean bill of health, and where do I sign?

Katherine Marple was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 14 in 1998. The mother of two small children, she has battled insulin resistance, pre-eclampsia, and pump failures, leading to insulin therapy via MDI using Levemir and Apidra, and sometimes metformin and CGM. She is the author of two diabete- related novels, "Wretched (this is my sorry)" and "Deathly Sweet."

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Categories: Cholesterol, Heart Disease, LDL, Statins, Type 1


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Comments

Posted by thediabeteslady on 25 June 2014

Let's start at the beginning. Start at the cause of your high cholesterol. Do some research on HMG CoA Reductase enzyme. Heres what you will find: The HMG CoA Reductase Enzyme is what up regulates cholesterol. Without that enzyme you would not be able to produce the cholesterol that is vital to every cell in your body. Now go back one more step to find out what upregulates the HMGCoA Reductase Enzyme. Well lo and behold...its insulin! Yes, insulin. The more insulin you have in your blood the more powerful is the HMG CoA Reductase Enzyme.

So the next thing you ask is wait, I am a type 2 diabetic. I take medication to produce more insulin or better yet, my type 2 diabetes has progressed to the point that I am taking insulin. And my doctor says my cholesterol is high and I must go on statins.

Whoa! Get off the bus at the next stop. First of all if you are a person with type 2 diabetes, it is entirely possible that you make sufficient insulin but you are insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is not the same thing as not having enough insulin...not by a long shot. 85 to 90% of people with type 2 diabetes are Insulin resistant. And I will venture to say, after 6 years of presenting talks and classes on How We Beat Diabetes, that 99% of those people who are insulin resistant do not even know what that means! Knowing what insulin resistance is one of the keys to dramatically improving you health.

Insulin resistance (stay with me now bc this is all very important) : every cell needs glucose for energy but those cells can only use a limited amount of glucose. They get that glucose by way of insulin. Simply put insulin is the vehicle that transports glucose to the cells. Insulin in effect knocks on the door of the cells and waits for the cell receptors to open to allow the glucose in. Cells of the non-insulin resistant non-diabetoc open easily and the glucose goes into the cell and all is right with the world. In the person w type 2 diabetes, when insulin comes knocking , the receptors do not open! Those cells need the glucose but the receptors no longer respond to the knock of the insulin. They are insulin resistant. They became insulin resistant bc over years and years of eating high carb foods, insulin was constantly being pumped out and constantly bathing those cells in insulin. Like the boy who cried wolf, the receptors no longer believe the insulin so they refuse to open. So now your doctor seeing your high blood sugars puts you on medication so you can produce even more insulin. And yes, that insulin will only add to your insulin resistance.

Your levels of insulin continue to rise and therefore continue to fuel the HMG CoA Reductase Enzyme. Its like pouring gasoline on a smoldering fire. You get a real blaze going. Because now that insulin is turbo-charging the HMG CoA Reductase Enzyme that enzyme is turbo-charging the production of cholesterol!

Bring down your hyperinsulinemia (too much insulin) and you bring down your cholesterol. Its the sugar that makes you have high cholesterol not fats!

And it is important to note that you should demand yes demand that your doctor give you the particle count on your LDL cholesterol. Particle B is the bad guy here. And we won't go into it in this post as it is too long already.

Do some research. Read Dr. Jonny Bowden's book "Living Low Carb", Gary Taubes books, "Why We Get Fat" or his seminal reseach book on carbs and fats, "Good Calories Bad Calories". Read Drs. bowden and Sinatra's book, The Great Cholesterol Myth" excellent book!


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