Question: My doctor has been suggesting I take a statin for high cholesterol, which runs in my family. But I have stubbornly refused because I’m worried about potential side effects. Can I do something other than take drugs for my high cholesterol?
Dr. Hibberd's answer:
We all have the same concerns about potential side effects of any medications or supplements, and no one wants side effects. But, on the other hand, we really do not want health problems to develop while we try out alternatives that may or may not be effective and may even have their own negative side effects.
Understand that negative reactions to statin drugs are far less common than Internet discussions will have you believe. The trick is to have a doctor who selects the right drug or combination that is right for you. This is not just a cholesterol numbers game, it is a risk factor analysis, and there are some who need aggressive management, and others who should never use statins.
Here are some tips:
1) Elevated lipids contribute to blocked arterial vessels over time, and early treatment will actually reverse narrowings, as long as they have not calcified and the plaque will stabilize.
2) You may have age-related plaques without narrowing, and even a small plaque can destabilize and bleed — creating a sudden unexpected blockage. We know that elevated lipids are associated with unstable plaque, and unfortunately there are no lifestyle or natural remedies that will stabilize plaque inflammation.
3) Some people with hereditary lipid disorders can suffer heart attacks as young as 17 to 18 years of age and sometimes even earlier.
4) Plaque regression and stabilization is the key to good lipid management, and you must recognize this to appreciate why we are aggressive with management and doctors recommend statins for many people.
I usually prefer to manage cholesterol with proven agents and use lifestyle modifications and appropriate natural agents to minimize the need for escalated medication use. Once your targets have been met, then you and your doctor may consider tapering your prescription doses
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