How To Get Off Statin Drugs
|Learn How To Get Off Statin Drugs
tatin medications are highly controversial. They are the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States and their potential side effects have become a hot issue. As our understanding of the heart disease story continues to evolve, some have questioned the role statins play in reducing heart disease and want to know how to get off statin drugs.
I advise my patients to see statins, whenever possible, as an interventional medication rather than an excuse to keep living an unhealthy lifestyle. It’s my goal to educate my patients and to help them transition to a lifestyle that makes statins unnecessary. (Because of genetic factors, this is not always possible.) Living statin free presents challenges, of course, but it can be done. So lets get started.
There are two things that every person taking a statin medication needs to know and realize:
1. The reasons for taking a statin medication and how these medications can be left behind.
2. I want patients with no known underlying heart disease to have a total cholesterol count under 200. -Those with previously diagnosed heart disease need to have a count under 150.
What are statins and what do they do? Despite what the fear-mongers say, your doctor is not in cahoots with the pharmaceutical companies to drain your wallet. The bottom line is that statins work. In the past 10 years there has been a 27 percent reduction in fatal heart attacks, and much of this improvement is due to statins- but remember statins can often times be used as a short term temporary fix.
No. 1: Start with your doctor.
The first step may surprise you because it’s not demanding at all. It’s a step, however, that many never take or fail to sustain. Build a relationship with your physician. Let him/her know that you want to know how to get off statin drugs and where you stand in regard to heart-healthy targets. Then, in consultation with your doctor, put together a game plan for doing so. As I’ve said, this will demand lifestyle modification. Without changing the way you live there’s no solid reason to get off your statin medication.
No. 2: Get serious about food.
Part of this game plan must be eating a plant-based diet. Depending on a patient’s particular profile, I recommend either the Dean Ornish heart-reversal diet or the South Beach Diet. If you have known heart disease, the Ornish diet is better because it most effectively cleanses the system of excess fat. The South Beach Diet is usually for those with risk factors but no known heart disease. This diet allows more latitude and can still get a person to the recommended targets.
Although the Ornish diet
puts no restriction on calorie intake — mainly because it’s hard to consume too many calories eating fruits and vegetables — you’ll need to limit your calories on the South Beach Diet
or a Mediterranean diet
(another good one). A typical unrestricted diet for the average adult contains about 2,400 calories per day. Aim to keep your calorie intake to between 1,500 and 1,800 calories. The lower end is for women; the higher end is for men.
No. 3: Lose weight for good, starting now.
Get to and maintain your ideal body weight. One way to judge your ideal body weight is via body mass index (BMI). Your BMI represents the percentage of your total body weight that’s due to fat. It should be under 25. Many health clubs have simple handheld devices
that provide a BMI reading
. These also can be purchased at drug stores.
Another way to think about ideal body weight is to remember what you weighed as a senior in high school. How far away are you? At that time your total cholesterol count — unless you already had a weight problem — was probably in the 120s. That’s the range that’s typical in populations without heart disease. So think “high school skinny.” For many of us, that’s a long way to go. You’ll need to approach this target weight, though, to sufficiently change your biochemistry.
No. 4: Get moving on a daily basis.
You need to start exercising five days a week for one hour per day. Walking is generally the best exercise available because it doesn’t place too much stress on the knees, hips, and back. If you like to run, you may want to mix running into your walks, which is how people have been moving ever since civilization began. If you want something more rigorous, then try weight lifting or exercise bands. Tennis, swimming
, and ballroom dancing are also good. The invention of golf carts decreased the health value of golf appreciably. But you can swim or ride a bike.
No. 5: Shut-eye can save your life.
You must get plenty of sleep — much more than our workaholic culture commonly believes. Not just eight hours a night, but eight to 10 hours on a regular basis. Sleep is the body’s main way of dealing with stress. Specifically, and this might surprise you, lack of sleep results in the liver pumping out excess cholesterol!
No. 6: Change your perspective on life.
Besides sleeping more, it’s important to take additional measures to reduce stress. The greatest of these is recruiting the support of your loved ones. Talk to your wife, husband, or others in your life about your desire to live in a healthy way. Rely on them for the encouragement and accountability you need.
No. 7: Slash your cholesterol counts.
Remember, there are only two ways to reduce your cholesterol: Stop the production of cholesterol in your liver, or stop its absorption in the small intestine. Adding supplements to your diet can help reduce cholesterol, but most people have to be at their targets, eating right, and exercising before supplements can help them stay there. One supplement works through the liver just like a statin — because it is a statin, a natural one. Mevastatin is produced naturally by red rice yeast. You can add red rice yeast to your diet by picking up a container at the grocery or health foods store. Be careful of the provider, however. In the past couple of years there have been problems with red rice yeast produced in China. Suppliers were adding pravastatin to their product to heighten its cholesterol-reducing properties. This posed a health risk as the amount of statin people were taking — unknowingly — varied wildly.
Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and vitamin B3 (niacin), remain the champions of the supplements. Both fish oil and niacin boost HDL, plump up LDL particles, and reduce inflammation. Fish oil even has a mild analgesic effect, for which your aching joints will thank you.
New evidence is emerging that flaxseed contains three ingredients that aid in maintaining heart health. Flaxseed is rich with the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, which contain both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities, plus soluble and insoluble fiber. Flaxseed seems to help not only with a person’s cholesterol profile but even in maintaining heart rhythm.
Organic grape juice, apples, and other foods that contain pectin help eliminate cholesterol through the gut. Garlic has a mild effect as well.
A glass of red wine a day, because it contains resveratrol, an antioxidant, also helps maintain heart health. Be careful, though: Two glasses of red wine a day increases cancer risk. In this light, I’d recommend having a glass of red wine no more than 2 or 3 times per week. Wine and other alcoholic beverages also cause triglyceride counts to climb. Oatmeal, oat bran, and other whole grain products can help with a small reduction, about 5 percent, in total cholesterol.
For those with risk factors or established heart disease, the challenges of living statin free in our culture can be daunting. If you take the seven steps I’ve outlined, though, starting with establishing that all-important relationship with your physician, you’ll have the best chance of success. You’ll feel 1,000 times better, too — that I can promise.I certainly hope that this helps you conquer your need for statin drugs.
Blessings,Dr. Chauncey W. Crandall
Author of Dr. Crandall’s Heart Health Report