Dr. Wy, why should I take a statin medication for high cholesterol instead of something else? Doesn’t a low-fat diet work, too?
You are so right that a healthy diet is VERY important! Statin drugs aren’t the only way to prevent strokes and heart attacks, also knowns as “major adverse cardiovascular events,” or “MACEs.” Eating a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet containing lots of fruits and vegetables, exercising frequently such as a briskly walking for 30 minutes 5 times a week, and getting adequate sleep each night (7-8 hours) are cornerstones of good health. Among many other health improvements, they reduce the risk of a MACE!
Statins, though, are unique in how they work and FURTHER reduce the chances of a MACE. And who wants a stroke or heart attack? NO ONE!
The first statin on the market, lovastatin, was identical to the statin found in red yeast rice, and in doses higher than can be found in nature, dramatically reduced LDL “bad” cholesterol by inhibiting a liver enzyme that produces LDL. Even more importantly, lovastatin and other statins that soon followed were found to be much better at preventing MACEs than other drugs and methods that reduce cholesterol.
Why is that? First, the LDL goes WAY down. That prevents cholesterol plaques from getting bigger and was even found to shrink them over time! Second, statins appear to reduce plaque inflammation that promotes their buildup. Finally, statins turn mushy plaques into harder, more stable plaques that don’t break open as easily, releasing substances that lead to an artery-clogging blood clot, which is what actually causes the heart attack or stroke. All that in one little pill!
Now that you know how statins work, I’ll go into more detail about who should take them and proof that they do. See you next month!
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