Take it from a doctor: Heart surgeon says statins DO NOT work, can even increase risk of diabetes and obesity

Image: Take it from a doctor: Heart surgeon says statins DO NOT work, can even increase risk of diabetes and obesity

If you aren’t taking statins, there is a good chance you know several people who do. After all, a quarter of the American population over the age of 45 takes one daily. Given their widespread use, you would think they are incredibly effective and safe, but nothing could be further from the truth – and some doctors are speaking out about the dangers.

When a respected heart surgeon like Dr. Dwight Lundell, who is the retired Chief of Surgery and Chief of Staff at Arizona’s Banner Heart Hospital, voices his concerns about statins, everyone should take notice. With 25 years of experience and more than 5,000 open heart surgeries under his belt, the doctor recently confessed that he, like many other physicians, has been getting it wrong when it comes to statins.

Dr. Lundell said that statins are no longer working, and the recommendations to take such medications and severely restrict fat intake are “no longer scientifically or morally defensible.”

As you might expect, his comments were not welcomed by the medical industry. Statins are huge money-makers in a population that is rife with obesity, poor eating habits and heart health concerns. Costing anywhere from $53 to $600 per month, drugs like Lipitor have racked up lifetime sales of $125 billion, while Crestor, 2013’s top-selling statin, generated $5.2 billion of revenue that year alone. With more people taking these drugs than ever, why are heart disease-related deaths still rising?

Lundell says that it’s time for a paradigm shift in how heart disease is treated now that we know its true cause is arterial wall inflammation. He said that foods full of sugars and simple carbohydrates, along with processed foods with omega-6 oils, “have slowly been poisoning everyone” and our bodies react to such “foreign invaders” with inflammation in the walls of arteries. If this inflammation is the cause of heart disease rather than high cholesterol, of course, there is no need for cholesterol-lowering statins. The inflammation, he says, causes the cholesterol to accumulate in blood vessel walls, so it’s the inflammation that we need to target.

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Those whose livelihoods depend on statin profits won’t be too thrilled with his advice: “By eliminating inflammatory foods and adding essential nutrients from fresh unprocessed food, you will reverse years of damage in your arteries and throughout your body from consuming the typical American diet.”

They’d much rather have people continuing to bark up the wrong tree, avoiding beneficial fats in favor of the very processed foods that create high cholesterol in the first place so they can convince you that you need their medications to bring it back down – medications that cause a slew of other health problems that will only drive you to need even more pills as the profits pile up.

For example, statins have been shown in studies to double your chances of developing diabetes and raise your risk of suffering serious diabetic complications, and they’ve also been linked to obesity.


Try a natural approach to heart health

So what should you do if you want to enhance your heart health? Increasing your physical activity, regardless of your current level, can make an impact, whether you’re completely sedentary and decide to start taking an evening stroll a few times a week or you already lift weights and choose to increase your reps.

Avoiding the foods Dr. Lundell identified as dangerous for heart health is another step that can make a big difference, so say goodbye to simple sugars and carbohydrates like refined sugar, white bread, and cookies, along with processed food.

While statins aren’t nearly as effective or safe as those who sell them would like you to believe, there are some very simple and affordable ways to keep your heart healthy without any negative side effects.

Massive 10-Year Study Has Linked Diet Soda To Heart Attacks And Stroke

So you’ve decided to take control of your diet and try and live a healthier life, but you just can’t resist soda. In your mind, you rationalize the decision and decide that you can keep drinking it as long as you switch to diet soda instead. It’s a choice that millions of people make every year, as the clever marketing departments of large soda companies convince us that switching to diet is a perfectly healthy alternative.

The reality is that these claims are simply untrue! Most soda manufacturers use an artificial sweetener, called aspartame, to replace sugar. A new study carried out by the University of Iowa, has shown that this chemical is linked to an increased likelihood of heart disease.

Dangers of Drinking Diet Soda

The study, headed up by Dr. Ankur Vyas, was one of the most comprehensive of its type with nearly 60,000 women participating over nine years. Known as the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, the research found that participants who drank two or more cans of diet soda a day were 30% more likely to have a cardiovascular event (e.g. heart attack) and 50% more likely to die of a heart-related disease than someone who drank none.

‘This is one of the largest studies on this topic, and our findings are consistent with some previous data, especially those linking diet drinks to the metabolic syndrome,’ said Vyas. Given the scale of the study and the fact that approximately one in five people in the United States consume diet drinks on a daily basis, the results could prove to be hugely significant to overall public health.

The 59,614 participants were split into four groups by the research team: two or more diet drinks a day, five to seven diet drinks per week, one to four diet drinks per week, and zero to three diet drinks per month.

After nearly nine years the health records of each woman was analyzed and the results were that coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack, coronary revascularization procedure, ischemic stroke, peripheral arterial disease, and cardiovascular death, occurred in 8.5% of the women consuming two or more diet drinks a day compared to 6.9% in the five-to-seven diet drinks per week group; 6.8% in the one-to-four drinks per week group; and 7.2% in the zero-to-three per month group.

The results, on the surface, didn’t appear to fit the hypothesis that aspartame was one of the leading causes of heart disease. However, the records showed that alongside the slightly higher rate of heart-related health issues, the women in the two or more a day group were, on average, significantly younger than the women in the other groups, meaning the diet sodas were causing health issues at an accelerated rate. The women in this group also had the highest average BMIs, the rate of diabetes and highest average blood pressure.

Despite the scale of the study, no official conclusion can be drawn but the initial signs are worrying. ‘Based on these and other findings we have a responsibility to do more research to see what is going on and further define the relationship,’ Vyas explained. ‘This could have major public health implications.’

Several more research projects have been commissioned since the publication of the University of Iowa’s results, in order to deduce the scale of the issues that aspartame can cause. However, the advice in the meantime is to cut out soda drinks from your daily life and even if you do occasionally indulge; regular soda is actually better for you than the diet variety.

The money pumped into making diet soda appear as a healthy alternative is further proof that many large companies are far more concerned with lining their pockets than benefitting their consumers. When it comes to the things you eat and drink, make sure you know exactly what you are putting into your body.

Statins prevent 80,000 heart attacks and strokes a year in UK, study finds

Study in Lancet says risk of side-effects has been exaggerated and controversy will cause 2,000 extra heart attacks and strokes over next decade

Several different types of statin pills
Authors say the benefits of taking statins have been under-estimated while the harms have been exaggerated. 

The review is published by the Lancet medical journal, whose editor, Richard Horton, likened the harm done to public confidence by the critics of statins to that caused by the paper his journal published on the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine in 1998.

“Controversy over the safety and efficacy of statins has harmed the health of potentially thousands of people in the UK,” he wrote in a comment published with the review. In six months after the publication of “disputed research and tendentious opinion” on the side-effects of statins in 2013, a study estimated that over 200,000 patients stopped taking a statin. It predicted there would be 2,000 extra heart attacks and strokes over the next decade as a result.

The Lancet was taking a stand, he said, “because of our experience of MMR. We saw in a very painful way the consequences of publishing a paper which had a huge impact on confidence in a safe and effective vaccine.

“We learned lessons from that episode and those lessons need to be widely promulgated. They are lessons for all journals and all scientists.”

The furore over statins broke out after Nice, the UK’s National Institute for Healthand Clinical Excellence, advised doctors in 2013 to prescribe statins for patients with a low, 10% risk of heart disease in the next 10 years, which was half the previous level of a 20% risk. It made 4.5 million more people, who were fundamentally healthy, eligible for statins, which Nice said could prevent up to 28,000 heart attacks and 16,000 strokes each year.

The guidance, which was based on evidence from the group led by Prof Rory Collins at the clinical trials service unit at Oxford University, was questioned by the British Medical Journal, which is campaigning against the over-use of medicines and medical treatment. The BMJ ran two papers claiming statins did not reduce deaths and that the risk of side-effects outweighed the benefits.

Collins severely criticised the papers and the BMJ, arguing in the Guardian that they could harm more people than Wakefield did with his MMR paper. Wakefield suggested a link between the jab and autism, deterring some parents from having their children vaccinated.

In the light of the loss of confidence in the pills, the new review of the evidence on the benefits and side-effects, led by Collins, was intended to help doctors, patients and the public make an informed decision about statin therapy, it said.

About a third of those who have already had a heart attack or stroke and would be eligible for statins are not taking them, and that rises to a half among those in the low-risk group. Many do not want to take pills because they do not consider themselves ill, while others worry about side-effects.

The authors say the benefits of taking statins have been under-estimated while the harms have been exaggerated. Treating 10,000 high-risk patients prevents 1,000 heart attacks or strokes and treating 10,000 low-risk patients prevents 500, they say. In the UK, about 2 million people at high risk – because they have suffered a heart attack or stroke – and about 4 million at low risk take statins.

About 40,000 people in each group – a total of 80,000 – avoid potentially fatal heart attacks and strokes as a result, said Collins.

He and his fellow authors stressed that their findings were from randomised controlled trials, which have compared large groups of similar people, some on statins while others were not.

The statins critics generally cite findings from observational studies, Collins said – that is data from people who have been taking statins in the real world, but without a carefully selected comparison group who have not been on the pills. That makes it hard to tell whether any problems are actually caused by the drugs.

There are side-effects, says the review. There is a real risk of myopathy, a neuromuscular disorder which causes muscle damage. One in 10,000 people per year will develop myopathy as a result of this. Another five to 10 people will have a haemorrhagic stroke, which involves bleeding into the brain and 10 to 20 people on statins are diagnosed with diabetes.

There have been claims that as many as 20% of patients have “statin intolerance”, with claims of muscle weakness and pain. At most 10 to 20 in every 10,000 have an increase in such symptoms on the drugs, says the review.

Some GPs have been among the sceptics over statins, but Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the study cut through the controversy. “It recognises the benefits that these drugs have for many patients, but also the potential side-effects that any prescribing healthcare professional should be aware of.”

GPs would never take a decision to prescribe statins lightly and should only do it after a discussion with the patient and the medication should be regularly reviewed, she said.

“We hope this research reassures patients who are on statins that in the majority of cases statins are safe and effective drugs – but in most cases where adverse side-effects are seen, these are reversible by stopping taking statins.”

Consultants spoke of struggling to persuade patients that the drugs would help them. “I often meet people who don’t want to take statins yet are happy to take other drugs with greater risks of side-effects, or take supplements with no benefit at all,” said Dr Tim Chico, a consultant cardiologist in Sheffield. “Statins have been unfairly demonised, and this prevents a sensible discussion of the risks and benefits of their use. Statins can cause side-effects, but the chance of developing these is low, while the effects of suffering the heart attack that a statin might have prevented can be fatal or life-long.”

Prof David Webb, president of the British Pharmacological Society, said: “In recent years, those of us who manage the large number of patients at excess risk of heart disease and strokes have been fighting an uphill battle to persuade them to take statins, a class of medicines that have been repeatedly shown to save lives.

“The problem has largely related to concerns about muscle aches and potentially more serious side-effects (muscle damage, diabetes and haemorrhagic stroke) that have been very well publicised on the internet.

“Many patients who have much to benefit from statins, and many of those at more modest risk, have been persuaded not to take them because of exaggerated claims of harm, and some research suggesting that the benefits have been overestimated. It is likely that many lives have been lost, based on a received view that statins are dangerous and ineffective.”

A lifesaving guide to heart attacks

1) How do you know if you are having a heart attack?

Most people feel pain, pressure or squeezing in their chest. What doctors call the Hollywood heart attack — a person suddenly clutches his or her chest and falls to the ground — is unusual. In addition to or instead of chest pain, about a third of people have symptoms that include abdominal pain, heavy sweating, back pain, neck pain, nausea and vomiting. Many people mistakenly dismiss such symptoms, said Dr. Mary Norine Walsh, the vice president of the American College of Cardiology.

2) How can you decide if symptoms other than chest pain are actually from a heart attack?

If your symptoms come on suddenly, or if they worsen over a period of hours or days, you should assume they are caused by a heart attack and go to an emergency room.

3) Do women have different symptoms than men?

Probably not, but women are more likely to delay seeking help and doctors are more likely to dismiss their symptoms. That is especially true if the woman is younger, Dr. Walsh said. Women tend to on average have heart attacks about 10 years later than men, so doctors may dismiss worrisome symptoms in middle-aged women.

4) What should you do if you are having heart attack symptoms?

Call 911 for an ambulance to take you to the emergency room immediately. Do not try to drive yourself or have a friend or family member drive you. Paramedics can take an electrocardiogram on the way to the hospital that shows if you are having a heart attack and transmit it to the hospital. So as soon as you arrive, the medical staff is prepared and waiting. The paramedics can also administer oxygen and medications to ease your pain before you reach the hospital. And an ambulance is less likely to get stuck in traffic.

5) How can you find out if your local hospital is able to treat heart attacks quickly?

Time is of the essence when you are having a heart attack, and while most hospitals today are much quicker than they were a decade ago, some are faster than others. Often, paramedics know which hospital is best and will take you there. You don’t want to waste time fighting with paramedics when you are having a heart attack. “I have had patients drive three hours to come to my hospital when they were in the middle of a heart attack because they thought they needed to come to a big medical center,” Dr. Walsh sayid. “If paramedics say, ‘We’ll get you to this hospital,’ go,” she added.

6) What are the symptoms of a severely narrowed aortic valve?

Cardiologists say there are three classic symptoms of this disease of aging: shortness of breath, a feeling of heaviness and pain in the chest, and fainting. Such symptoms are often mistakenly attributed the normal process of slowing down that comes with old age. Six months ago, an 85-year-old woman might have been driving a car and doing her own grocery shopping, said Dr. Michael Mack of Baylor Health Care System. Now she is doing none of those things. Her children notice but say: “Well, she’s 85. What do you expect?” If a doctor is consulted, he or she may chalk it up to anemia or a thyroid problem. Many older adults with severe aortic valve disease are never diagnosed, said Dr. Howard Herrmann of the University of Pennsylvania.

7) How can a doctor know if symptoms are caused by a narrowed aortic valve?

The doctor can hear a heart murmur in the patient’s chest. An echocardiogram can reveal the narrowed artery and the extent of the damage.

8) Should everyone with a severely narrowed artery have it replaced?

Now that there is a procedure, transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, that allows doctors to replace valves without doing open-heart surgery, high risk patients who would have been considered at too great a risk of dying from open-heart surgery have a chance to have a valve replacement. But, Dr. Herrmann cautioned, some patients are still too frail to benefit or have another disease like cancer or dementia that limits life expectancy.


Scientific Review Suggests Aspirin Significantly Cuts Cancer Rates

A recent review of several studies confirms that taking a small daily dose of aspirin significantly reduces the risk of developing – or dying from several kinds of cancer.

Several clinical studies have suggested that aspirin can reduce the risk of colon, and other cancer’s of the gastrointestinal tract. (2,3,4) In order to study this further, researchers analyzed all the available evidence from studies and clinical trials evaluating taking aspirin daily for 10 years and confirmed that daily aspirin could reduce bowel cancer cases by around 35 percent and deaths from the disease by 40 percent.  These results were published in the Annals of Oncology journal.(1)

Aspirin, originally developed by the German drug maker Bayer, is a cheap, over-the-counter drug generally used to combat pain or reduce fever.  The drug when taking in smaller doses of 75-100 milligrams per day reduces the risk of clots forming in blood vessels and can therefore protect against heart attacks and strokes, so it is often prescribed for people who already suffer with heart disease and have already had one or several attacks.
The authors found that in addition to reducing the risk of developing colon cancer, the risk of esophageal and stomach cancer were cut by 30 percent and deaths from these cancers reduced by 35 to 50 percent.

The authors of the current study observed that if everyone between 50 and 65 years of age started taking aspirin daily for at least 10 years, there would be a 9 percent reduction in the number of cancers, strokes and heart attacks overall in men, and around 7 percent in women.

There are however some serious side effects of aspirin including a risk of bleeding in the stomach.  Among 60-year-olds who take daily aspirin for 10 years, the risk of digestive tract bleeding increases from 2.2 percent to 3.6 percent, and this could be life-threatening in a small proportion of people. The risk of bleeding has prevented some doctors from advising patients to take aspirin as regularly as every day. This risk of bleeding is well known and should not be ignored especially in individuals at high risk.  In this era of wellness however where many individuals look to alternative medicines, nutritional supplements and foods rich in anti-oxidants, and other nutrients to reduce their caner risk an aspirin a day may be the simplest and most cost effective way to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal cancers.

1.    Cuzick J, Thorat MA, Bosetti C. et al. Estimates of benefits and harms of prophylactic use of aspirin in the general population. Annals of Oncology. 10,2014 doi:10.1093/annonc/md
2.    Burn J, Bishop T, Mecklin JP, et al. Effect of aspirin or resistant starch on colorectal neoplasia in the lynch syndrome. New England Journal of Medicine. 2008; 359: 2567-2578.
3.    Burn J, Gerdes A-M, Macrae F et al. Long-term effect of aspirin on cancer risk in carriers of hereditary colorectal cancer: an analysis from the CAPP2 randomised controlled trial. Lancet. Early online publication October 28, 2011.
4.    Tan X-L, Reid Lombardo KM, Bamlet WR, Robinson DP, Anderson K, Petersen GM. Aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen and risk of pancreatic cancer. Presented at the 102nd Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), April 2-6, 2011, Orlando, FL. Abstract 1902.

Heart Attacks Deadliest for Young Women, Study Finds.

Heart attacks can be deadliest for young women, according to a new study. Researchers found that not only were young women more likely to be sicker than young men once they arrived at a hospital – they were also more likely to die there. Yale cardiologist Dr. Harlan Krumholz and colleagues found that anywhere between 2 percent and 3 percent of young women, aged 30-54, who were hospitalized for a heart attack died over the years 2001 to 2010. That compares to 1.7 percent to 2 percent of men the same age, they reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“Young women are commonly thought not to be at risk for heart attacks,” Krumholz said. “The point here is that young women should not ignore symptoms that could suggest a heart attack.” The symptoms – which range from chest pain and shortness of breath to fatigue and nausea – can vary between men and women. “While the medical community has focused on educating more women on heart disease, it hasn’t yet customized its message for young women,” says cardiologist Dr. Jennifer Mieres of the North Shore-LIJ Health System. “All of these things lead to a delay in recognizing symptoms, a delayed diagnosis, and a delay in treatment strategies because women are coming in to the hospital later.”