Cholesterol Pills – What You Haven’t Heard

By | June 1, 2008 at 5:02 am | 6 comments | Heart Health | Tags: , , , ,

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You know cholesterol pills will lower your cholesterol. But do you know cholesterol pills don’t prevent heart attacks by lowering cholesterol? They work by what the pharmaceutical companies call “a pleitropic effect” meaning they have so many effects we can’t understand or predict them all.

Isoprene: A Building Block for Cellular Health

Cholesterol pills called statins lower cholesterol by blocking the enzyme that forms a chemical required for the earliest steps of cholesterol manufacture, the making of isoprene units. If you can’t make isoprene units, you can’t make cholesterol. But your body uses isoprene units for a whole bunch of purposes, so taking them out of the cellular stockpile means that you can’t make a whole lot of other things either. Some people’s muscles can’t make the antioxidants their cells use to help manufacture ATP energy, so they feel weak and their hearts (an organ made of muscle!!) get flabby. Some people’s immune systems can’t distinguish healthy cells from malignant mutants or invasive bacteria, and so they develop cancer or infections. Those isoprene units are also important for brain cell growth and memory, so some people taking these pills act as if they’re getting Alzheimer’s. Because every cell in your body needs to make isoprene units, it seems logical that, if you take cholesterol pills long enough or in high enough doses, it’s only a matter of time before they damage your health.

In spite of these risks, I still advise some people to take cholesterol pills. Why? Because some people’s risk of heart attacks is so high and immediate, it’s worth the relatively lower, delayed risk of devoloping the other medical problems. Male smokers who have had heart attacks and continue to smoke are ideal candidates for statin therapy.

So if not by lowering cholesterol, how do the Statins work?

Cholesterol pills of the statin variety prevent heart attacks because of their effects on the immune system. By suppressing the immune system (which needs isoprene units for all kinds of functions) drugs like Lipitor, Vytorin, Pravachol and others have a mild anti-inflammatory effect. Aspirin is another example of an anti-inflammatory medicine. But aspirin’s effect is more focused on the inflammation than it is on fundamental immune system function, and so it’s ability to prevent heart attacks may be as much as 100 times more powerful.

For more information about cholesterol lowering pills, and related information that you aren’t likely to get from your doctor, check these links: (and click your browser’s back button if you want to navigate back here)

For those of you who want to know more about why cholesterol pills make people feel bad, here’s a slightly more technical section: The Nitty Gritty

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6 Comments

  1. Carole Hopkinson (2 years ago)

    A friend of mine has a very bad leg, very painfull and stone cold all the time. she has just come back from America, where it was 85 degrees and her leg was still stone cold. she has now gone to the doc, and he has prescribed colesterol tablets, she can,t understand this. what can she do. thankyou.

  2. Dr. Cate (3 years ago)

    Richard:
    Not at all! If you can change your diet, in a matter of months you can get off those pills. Every one of my TRIM patients who completes the 10 week program can decrease the dose, and as they continue, most can get off the pills within the year.

  3. Richard Schenkel (3 years ago)

    I’ve heard that once you start taking a cholesterol pill, it’s a life sentence.
    I’ve been taking one for close to three years now. If I eat right, am I still stuck
    taking them for life?

  4. Robyn Hennings (3 years ago)

    Good on you Josephine,

    I think you are right, and it is important for you to share your insight and experience and keep on doing so. My Dad 87, commenced Lipitor 20mg after an infarct last year. Eight weeks in, (I waited for it) he was getting muscle pain, weakness and general fatigue, he developed memory/cognitive problems. Eventually after several trips back and forth to a great GP; he agreed risk-verses benefit issues, and took Dad off statins. He was also aware of the growing contrary evidence about statins, even though the medical model is still to always prescribe statins.

    As a RN who worked in cardiology 6 years, we would often talk among ourselves, and to our ‘inquiring’ patients – the most commonly asked question? “Why did I have a heart attack if I have low colesterol?” Even then we understood ‘the science’ does not add up. Our nurse educator was prescribed satins, but would not take them for fear of side effects – a very educating point of view that demanded more questions – (Not everyone experiences such severe side effects immediately)

    The pharmaceutical industry has a lot to answer for, and although the medical machine grinds its way forward, people are asking more questions, and sometimes they find answers and research on the net and share their insights.

    Change does happen and will take place, I believe more and more health practitioners are becoming aware of certain discrepancies in their discipline, but not everyone is courageous enough or able to front the issues as Cate is doing. Thank you Dr Cate.

  5. Catey (5 years ago)

    Josephine! Do not despair, your diligence may have saved your mother’s life and certainly your ongoing loving care is priceless to her. What’s more, massage and physical therapy, and good diet, may yet restore your mother’s ability to walk. You are somebody and you can continue to make a difference and spread the word by sharing (as easy as copy and pasting) the story in your comment on this web site into other web sites wherever you think people reading might benefit from learning about your mother’s horrible experience.

  6. Josephine Keliipio (5 years ago)

    “”if you take cholesterol pills long enough or in high enough doses, it’s only a matter of time before they damage your health.””

    Mahalo for that very profound statement. They say that if you commit the sin of having a heart attack or stroke, watch out because your doctor will come at you with a vengeance and scare you into taking a statin drug for the rest of your life. My mother was prescribed 20 mgs of Lipitor after her stroke in 2006. Her doctor told us that Mom had to take it even though she did not have a high cholesterol problem and that if we stopped the drug, the doctor would stop being Mom’s doctor. So since all of the doctor’s in Hilo were not taking new patients, my brother obeyed the doctor so that Mom would be able to have a doctor. Six weeks after starting Lipitor, Mom began repeating questions as her brain began experiencing short term memory loss. About 3 months after being on Lipitor, the cardiologist announced to us that Mom was now pre diabetic and having symptoms of congestive heart failure. Within two years and 9 months, MOM went from being an ambulatory person to someone who could barely walk and who must have a wheel chair or a walker to get around. Even though it didn’t show up in her blood tests, Mom’s skeletal muscles have literally wasted away thanks to Lipitor. As soon as Mom came to stay with me in December 2008, I took her off of Lipitor and announced to any doctor that questioned us that statins had destroyed Mom’s quality of life and that she would not be taking the drug ever again. The 1% to 2% absolute risk reduction is not worth it. After reading about the Allhat study, I feel betrayed by the medical establishment. I have had friends and relatives die of congestive heart failure in the last few years and I can’t help but ask myself, were they taking cholesterol drugs? Its like David fighting Goliath. The medical establishment has turned into an intimidating drug pushing monster that makes its profit off of the very people that it harms or kills. The only way to make the monster stop is to have thousands more of Dr. Cates rise up and say, “No More.”
    The nobodies like me don’t stand a chance.