In a silent move to maintain its sales supremacy in the cholesterol lowering drugs industry, a popular pharmaceutical company, whose US patent for its medicine recently expired, has conspired with another major player to delay the generic production of same-component drugs. This will allow the company to seek government approval to sell its top-selling product as an over-the-counter medicine in an effort to sustain its billion dollar sales figures.
The Truth About Statins and Cholesterol
So, what does this tell you? It simply means that the business is all about profit with a capital P.
Admittedly, studies have shown that the drug class of statins are effective in lowering total cholesterol levels, specifically LDL , or bad cholesterol. Yet, in their sales pitch they make light of the negative side effects these drugs have on the human body.
Statins are a class of drugs that are produced synthetically, in contrast to natural processes. They act inside the body to block the liver enzyme known as HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor, which is responsible for the production of cholesterol. Cholesterol per se is not the monster most people perceive it to be. It is in fact an important element in the human body and plays a fundamental role in maintaining good health. Among the benefits:
- it forms part of the substance from which the male hormone testosterone and the female hormone estrogen are produced;
- it is essential for the formation of the “feel good” hormone, serotonin;
- it has a major function in the development of memory; and
- it is an antioxidant, providing protection from cancer and aging.
When Cholesterol Becomes an Enemy
Cholesterol, a natural fatty substance, becomes harmful when there is too much of it in the body. The excess amount sticks to the walls of your blood vessels, the arteries in particular, and over time, they harden and the passageway becomes narrow. This condition is called atherosclerosis. Clots can form, blocking the arteries further and diminishing oxygen supply to the heart muscles.
An over-production of cholesterol increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases such as myocardial infarction (heart attack), cerebrovascular accident (stroke), unstable angina and coronary artery disease.
Abnormally high levels of cholesterol are the result of a fat-laden diet, lack of exercise, obesity and familial tendencies. What makes having a high cholesterol reading worse is, it does not show with symptoms. Most people with high cholesterol levels don’t feel anything to warn them of the danger. That's why having regular blood tests to know your cholesterol reading is very important in the management of the condition. If you are one of the more than 34 million adult Americans who have cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dl, you should do something about your condition before it leads to serious consequences.
Treatment for High Cholesterol Levels
You can take the statins your doctor will most probably prescribe. Just keep in mind that they do have several side effects, which may bring about more disease conditions that you didn’t bargain for. The more serious ones are:
- Myopathy – the muscle fibers stop functioning, causing muscle weakness
- Liver Damage – statins can cause injury to the liver, as seen in an increase in the liver enzymes
Other side effects include:
- Headache, memory loss, insomnia and dizziness
- Skin – rashes, allergic reactions
- Gastrointestinal problems – abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, hyperacidity, flatulence
- Neuromuscular conditions – weakness, numbness, back pain, arthritis, muscle tingling
- Respiratory conditions – colds, sinusitis, bronchitis
- Infections – flu-like syndrome, urinary tract infections
There are alternatives to taking synthetic drugs and avoiding their negative side effects. Lifestyle modifications can lower your cholesterol levels and lessen your risks for fatal and debilitating heart attacks and strokes. You can lower your LDL cholesterol by adhering to the following behavioral changes:
Maintain a low-cholesterol, low-saturated fat diet. Foods rich in saturated fat include, butter, shortening, coconut oil, mayonnaise, chocolate, processed foods, cheese, milk and red meat. Eat them in small amounts and only about two to three times a week. Switch your way of cooking from frying to broiling, baking and other methods that don’t use cooking oil. Look for healthy alternatives to high-fat food.
Overweight or obese people who successfully reduce their weight also lessen their cholesterol levels. Overweight is classified as men having a waistline of more than 40 inches and women of more than 35 inches.
Regular exercise or physical activity of at least 30 minutes per session - and preferably on a daily basis - can lower the LDL and raise HDL levels.
In addition to lifestyle changes, there are natural food supplements that you can take which will help you maintain a healthy heart and a well-functioning cardiovascular system. One such ingredient found in these food supplements is the polyphenol compound resveratrol.
Resveratrol is found in grapes, purple grape juice and red wine. Interest in its beneficial effects on the heart and blood vessels was sparked when studies showed that the French people had a lower incidence of cardiovascular diseases in spite of a diet heavy in red meat. The people who studied this phenomenon attributed it to the Frenchmen’s heavy consumption of red wine, and then further isolated the ingredient resveratrol as the source of the cultural enigma. Further studies showed that resveratrol produced the following benefits in people:
- Resveratrol neutralizes oxidants that cause damage to the body cells; it slows down lipoprotein oxidation and lowers cholesterol levels in the body.
- Resveratrol inhibits platelet aggregation and thrombus formation. A thrombus is a blood clot, which when formed inside the body and travels through the bloodstream can lead to a stroke or heart attack.
- Resveratrol slows down aging and promotes longevity. It also helps to prevent the onset of degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart diseases.
- Resveratrol suppresses angiogenesis, or the formation of new blood vessels leading to cancerous tumors.
- Resveratrol helps in weight reduction and prevents obesity-related diseases.
There are no known side effects from taking resveratrol, and supplements containing the miracle molecule are widely and easily available.