Statins have been acclaimed as a ‘Superdrug’ since they developed in the late 1980s, however it’s only in the last decade statins have contradicting medical opinion. In this article we will look into when statins are prescribed, how effective they are, what are the side effects & are natural alternatives to statins effective? We spoke to many experts and sought their opinions.
When Statins Are Prescribed?
The heart specialists consider a permutation of factors, including family history, weight, blood pressure and lifestyle, as well as your cholesterol readings, to evaluate the risk of a cardiovascular ‘event’ – a heart attack or stroke – within the next 10 years.
Although statins were at first targeted at people with a 30% risk of this happening, guidelines have since been changed twice. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance at the moment recommends the threshold for prescribing statins for advising anyone with a 10% risk within the next 10 years.
If you have excessive levels of cholesterol, or have a family history of cardio vascular disease, and so are at risk of cardio vascular disease, your doctor will most likely recommend statins to lower your risk. Statins cut down the amount of cholesterol in your blood, so lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke if you have already had one.
Statins may also be prescribed for people who have hereditary condition, familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), which connotes that irrespective of your lifestyle, you have elevated cholesterol levels.
How Far Statins Useful?
Whereas statins are ‘super drugs’ to some GPs, many medics assert their benefits have been overplayed, and some others cite enervating side effects, including muscle pain, fatigue and memory loss.
What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Statins?
If you are intolerant of statins, you can experience uncomfortable or painful side effects, which could include:
(i) Flu-like muscle pains
(iii) Upset stomach
Top Tips On How To Keep Your Heart Healthy Without Taking Statins
What are the alternatives to statins? What can be done if you are at high risk of cardio vascular disease (CVD), or have already had a heart attack or stroke, and the prescribed statin doesn’t agree with you? There are a number of different statins, so you can talk to your GP about possibly trying a different one.
Another alternative is to bring down your cholesterol levels by modifying your diet and lifestyle. But in case your risk level is so high that you really need to be on a statin, then make sure to talk to your GP, before you discontinue your medication. Modifying your diet and lifestyle can help you to lessen your dose of a statin, so bringing undesirable side effects to manageable levels, however if you want to stop taking the statin altogether, do it in consultation with your doctor, and know what the risks are.
You should be realistic about what these lifestyle changes involve. You have to be strong-willed to continue all through, and keep up with them. But, these changes are unlikely to make as much difference to your cholesterol levels as taking statins.
(i) Stop Smoking For Healthy Heart: The lifestyle changes you should make include stopping smoking. Smoking lowers your levels of good cholesterol (HDL), and turns your cholesterol stickier, so more prone to stick onto your artery walls. Approximately 20% of heart disease deaths are directly attributable to smoking. So if you smoke, don’t you think it’s time to stop? To get help to quit smoking go online at www.nhs.uk/smokefree.
(ii) Get More Active To Control Cholesterol: Being more active will augment your good cholesterol levels (HDL) and at the same time cut down your bad cholesterol levels (LDL). It also helps in lowering your blood pressure, lessening your body fat, and assists you in keeping a healthy weight and shape, and brings down your stress and anxiety levels.
Endeavour for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every week (thus 30 minutes, five days per week). If you can do longer than this, you would see greater health improvement.
For a healthy heart you should do aerobic exercise, such as:
(i) Brisk walking
Total Fitness Tips:
(a) If you haven’t exercised for a while consult with your doctor first.
(b) Canadian studies show if you’re overweight and exercise, your risk of heart disease reduces significantly, says Dr. Cramb. Whereas the present guidelines recommend 2½ hours of exercise a week, other studies found shorter bouts of high-intensity activity concedes better results.
(c) What To Eat For Healthy Heart And Body: These fitness tips are good for your overall health, not for your heart only. The same means for the changes to your diet. HEART UK has its own cholesterol-lowering plan, called as the Ultimate Cholesterol Lowering Plan ( UCLP* for short). It is a step-by-step process for lowering your cholesterol.
To quote Linda Main, Dietetic Advisor for the HEART UK, the cholesterol charity: “We start by talking about motivation, and getting people to focus on why it’s important to get cholesterol levels down.” She further says: “So we look at what their triggers are for eating unhealthy food. Then we look at the basics – lowering saturated fats in the diet, replacing it with healthier fat, and including high fiber carbohydrates or whole grains, at least five portions of fruit and veg a day, and one portion of oily fish a week.”
“The third stage,” she says “is looking at cholesterol-busting foods, which include”:
(iii) Plant sterol and stanol fortified products – spread, yogurt and milk (read the labels)
(iv) Foods rich in soluble fiber, for example, oats and barley, vegetables such as aubergines and okra, and fruits such as apples, citrus fruits and berries
To find out more about UCLP*, and to download leaflets, click on this link http://heartuk.org.uk
(d) “Fat is essential for every cell in the body – we would die without it.
“Natural fat (saturated, mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated) found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, olives and avocados is vital.
We should avoid man-made trans fats and processed foods, ones where natural fats have often been replaced with nutritionally void sugar and sweeteners, if we care about our weight and health,” says Zoe.
(e) Chuck Sugar: Health experts also agree refined sugar is a major cause of concern – especially carbonated soft drinks. “These should be avoided,” says Dr. Cramb. “They can indirectly increase the amount of fat in the body – and the risk of heart disease.”
(f) Look On The Bright Side: Middle-aged optimists were found to have healthier levels of ‘good’ cholesterol and lesser levels of triglycerides, the fatty molecules involved in hardening of the arteries, observed researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, US. It’s also believed that optimists are more likely to have a healthy body weight also.
(g) Watch Your Alcohol Intake: Alcohol has a similar effect as of sugar on your body – and also increases blood pressure, says Dr. Cramb.
(h) Snack On Nuts: Studies have found that unsalted nuts, especially walnuts and almonds, which contain monounsaturates, can lower LDL cholesterol. It’s thought this is due to antioxidants contained in the nut skins. Aim for 70g per day.
(i) Download A Mindfulness App: Stress can lead to a long-term increase in cholesterol, say experts at University College London. But a US study observed those who are ‘mindful’ are 83% more likely to have a healthy heart. Try an app like Headspace for iPhone or Android.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute medical or other form of any sort of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.
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