Millions of people rely on statin-type drugs to control their cholesterol and lower their risk of heart disease. Medicines like Crestor, Lipitor and simvastatin are effective, but they have some drawbacks. Diet and supplements can make a difference, but what is the science behind the natural approach?
Guests: Christopher Gardner, PhD, is Director of Nutrition Studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at Stanford University Medical School.
David Becker, MD, is a clinical cardiologist at Chestnut Hill Hospital and Abington Memorial Hospital and is affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania Health Systems. There is more information about his prevention program online at www.healthychangeofheart.com
His article was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, June 16, 2009.
Tod Cooperman, MD, is founder and President of ConsumerLab.com.
The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. Podcasts can be downloaded for free for six weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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  1. jv
    Reply

    Please be aware that if you have fibromyalgia or other inflammatory disease that Crestor and other drugs like it can cause severe muscle and joint pain. I was prescribed crestor and my Dr. knew I had severe fibro and 4 herniated disc, cervical spondylosis, etc and the first time I took it, I couldn’t bear the pain I had the next day. I got an acute pain attack and had to go immediately to my pain doc who said it was from the crestor. Next day, after not taking it, I was okay.

  2. marco
    Reply

    what brand of red rice yeast are you using?
    congratulations.

  3. TonyaW
    Reply

    OK, I am super scared. I have always been a natural supplement and eastern medicine girl. And I have battled high cholesterol since I was 20 (it started out at just over 200, and over the last 15 years has kept going up.) So now I am faced with a cholesterol of over 250 and now have to start drugs.
    I have eaten relatively “healthy” (increase fruits and veggies, low cholesterol meats cheeses etc), and just don’t have the income for all the supplements that are required to lower the bad cholesterol.
    What are impoverished people supposed to do when the statins are only 2-5$$ copay and the supplements are over $20? ack!
    thanks all!
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: THERE IS NO SHAME IN USING DRUGS WHEN YOU CAN. GO AHEAD AND TRY YOUR DOCTOR’S PRESCRIPTION AND SEE HOW YOU DO. YOU MIGHT FIND IT WORKS WELL AND DOESN’T CAUSE YOU DIFFICULTIES.

  4. Joan
    Reply

    keep me posted on this site as my cholesterol is borderline – 201 but high hdl. so far off drugs and want to stay that way.

  5. MS
    Reply

    My husband’s cholesterol stubbornly stayed WAY above 200 for years. After taking fish oil twice a day, plus extended-release red yeast rice, he finally got down to 196! We never, ever thought that would happen, and this was after he tried Zocor, Lipitor, Mevicor and Zetia.

  6. John S.
    Reply

    It would be helpful to have results published as real numbers, rather than as a overall percentage. Did everyone across the board have the same results? If so, a 25% reduction for a person with a 270 cholesterol would result in a 203. A 210 level would drop to 157. Is that what really happened or did those with very high cholesterol get more benefit than those with lower initial readings?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: MOST LIKELY THE RESPONSE IS A MEAN. INDIVIDUAL LEVEL DATA ARE ONLY RARELY REPORTED FOR CLINICAL TRIALS.

  7. Peggy
    Reply

    Thanks for your program on Cholesterol and Red Yeast Rice today. I heard one of your programs on Red Yeast Rice about a year ago and started taking it. It lowered my cholesterol plus I added much more exercise and was more careful with my diet. I always learn so much when listening to The Peoples Pharmacy!

  8. Paul43
    Reply

    Yes–crandew w — I would love to see the results of the study you were in. The only thing wrong with my Cholesterol is that my HDL is only 5 points LOW from the normal range–of course my Cardiologist put me on a pill called SIMCOR– a combination of Simavastatin & Niacin— after 6 months there was no change in my HDL. I told my Doc I’m quitting the Simcor for 3 months and if there is any BIG change in my cholesterol I might go back but I’m not risking getting any of the bad effects from the SATINS I’m always reading about.
    He was surprised and tried to tell me all those bad effects were in the past. I told him I don’t care when they were I’m not willing to wake up some morning & find out they pull all the satins off the market because they were causing some major problem–especially when my HDL is only 5 points low—I can live with that.

  9. Joanne
    Reply

    Two supplements, Sytrinol and Slo-niacin, were the most effective in lowering my husband’s cholesterol significantly within a matter of a few weeks (down 90 points and holding) and mine within a couple month’s (down 92 points and holding) I had been taking these for more than a year before my husband decided to give it a try. No more pharmaceuticals for us!

  10. crandreww
    Reply

    William and all, I was on Lipitor at 29 years old, as a Critical Care Registered Nurse, I “knew” how safe these drugs were. I took it for 3.5 years, when I became deathly ill, hospitalizing me for 28 days at the University Hospital in Wisconsin. Underwent a Brain and Muscle Biopsies, which revealed multiple Autophagic Vacuoles, (Holes in my brain caused by the Neurons (Brain cells) killing themselves, a process in which old cells replace themselves with new, healthy cells, the process is called apoptosis, and is controlled by Ubiquinol (CoQ10) which of course is diminished by statins, including red yeast rice.
    This occurred in 2002, at 34 years, and I remain unable to work, due to permanent cognitive dysfunction, bilateral leg pain, Myoclonus, and profound fatigue. My 2 neurologists completely disregard lipitor as the cause, however, in 2003, after home from the hospital, I enrolled in a Statin Effects study, at the UCSD, in which I was told as a result that my use of lipitor was the causal contributor to the Apoptosis, and the Mitochondrial Anomolies seen in my brain biopsy, under light and electron microscopy.
    We need to begin looking at our diet, and not PILLS to prevent heart disease and stroke. Consume antioxidant rich Fruits and Veggies, raw and unprocessed foods,
    If anyone would like I can share the published results of the statin effects study I was in.
    Thanks and Merry Christmas!!

  11. MikeW
    Reply

    Is there a description of the regimen he followed?

  12. JC
    Reply

    Does anyone have any information or comments on the new statin drug, Livalo (Pitavastatin)? My cholesterol has been high for many years, but I have resisted the advice of my physician and have not taken a statin to lower it. It is now 296 and I have reluctantly agreed to try Livalo over Crestor, his first recommendation but, as it has just recently been approved for sale by the FDA, I can find no unbiased advice or patient information on the drug.

  13. Hanes C.
    Reply

    I really loved your Cholesterol show. It hit home as I tried Lipitor a year ago with much muscle pain. My Dr. gave me a 5 mg. dose of Crestor in December. Within three weeks I went from walking a mile a day every day to barely being able to walk from the bedroom to the kitchen without my left leg completely giving way.
    I quit the Crestor and it took almost a month to recover. Now I am trying to build up to where I should have been if not for another try at Statin drugs. I am currently using fish oil, red yeast rice, weight control,and exercise instead of drugs. Time will tell, but after hearing your show I feel I am on the right track. Many Thanks.

  14. pw
    Reply

    I am on Lipitor since last July but have thought of taking red yeast rice, so I was happy to find out the risks in taking what I find at the local drug store. I have leg cramps so I am taking a low dose of Coenzyme Q10 and putting a bar of soap under the sheet in bed.

  15. DT
    Reply

    Love your program, but I have a complaint about consumerlab.com. After paying the annual subscription fee of $29.95, I discovered that they have not tested any of the ten or so supplements I and my family take daily. Rather, they seem to test mainly those companies which have chosen to advertise on their website.
    If you shop at Walmart and buy SpringValley or Equate brands, as MANY people do, you will probably find that your supplement has not been tested by consumerlab.
    Also, when you subscribe for one-year, you are also signing up for automatic renewal as the default choice. You then must log-in again and change this to avoid a future charge.

  16. sally mr
    Reply

    What is the brand name of Cholestin that Gardner recommended. I found Cholestin Ex online but I do not know what specific brand he was referring to so it is not helpful to spend hours searching for a product that you say is so wonderful. Please give us an option so that we can find this product. Was cholestin a brand name or ingredient…very frustrating.

  17. jiovanna
    Reply

    I noticed muscle reduction in my left leg after being on 20 mg. simvastatin. So I dropped it for a few months and just tried niacin at 1000 mg. per day. This didn’t work so I tried lovastatin at 20 mg. for a month followed by reducing the mg to 10 for two weeks. I’ll find out soon how I came out. However, my muscle weakness continues in my left leg so I’m going to quit! It’s not worth it. So this radio program is definitely important! Keep up the great work! You are helping people save themselves from disasters!

  18. Diane
    Reply

    Since my mom has been on Lipitor, she has become increasingly tired & spends most of her time in her lazy-boy. She’s weak & tired. I cannot convince her of the alternative, even though I sent her some very valuable info… because her doctor has told her she cannot believe everything she reads. The doctor tells her just the opposite of me. I feel Lipitor is robbing me of a mother, for she doesn’t really have a life anymore. The doctors are too controlling, & people elevate them as if they are gods.

  19. William W.
    Reply

    While your physician would be able to explain the spectrum of effects which are controlled by administration of the other drugs, negative responses to statin drugs (such as Zocor) seem to unknown my most physicians (I have patronized 4-5 neurologists, none of whom was willing to acknowledge that they know enough to know what to do or recommend, though I found one who put me through an extensive number of expensive treatments with no positive response on my part).
    My best results have occurred because I took the advice of an experienced physician (Duane Graveline) who had experienced statin side effects. I would suggest that BDH visit Dr D Graveline’s website (spacedoc.net) and pay a visit the link which details reports by many individuals who have experienced one or more of the spectrum of statin side effects. As an aside, I suffered extreme cramping of leg muscles which were attributable to lipitor around 7.5 years ago.
    Currently, very significant destruction of muscles has developed in arm muscles as well as leg muscles. Although I have encountered another physician who has suffered somewhat similar muscle degeneration, I do not recall anyone who has suffered statin side effects who would not recommend discontinuation of statin intake. By the way, in addition to books by Dr Graveline, there are a number of books available by other authors on statin side effects.
    A book, entitled ‘The heart revolution’ by Dr Kilmer S McCully actually describes the erroneous association between the myth of cholesterol involvement in initiation of arterio-(or athro-) sclerosis; Dr McCully shows that the initiation of these severe coronary disease states results from homocysteine exposure; his book describes how to provide prevention by adopting reasonable nutritional principles.

  20. David S.
    Reply

    One thing commonly overlooked in discussing cholesterol is that it is one of many risk factors. An 80-year-old with an LDL of 125 but no other risk factors would be considered in great shape from a cholesterol perspective. The other issue is that lowering cholesterol is not by itself the issue. Before the statins there were medicines that could lower cholesterol but did not improve one’s mortality or risk of having heart disease or Improve overall health.
    What makes the statins so good is that they not only lower cholesterol but they actually have been shown to have a positive effect on mortality and morbidity. By reduced morbidity I mean the ability to live healthier for longer period of time, not to live forever.
    The downside of Statins are that roughly only one in 100 people who take them to lower cholesterol get benefit from doing so. The number one in 100 is a very rough number. That is, also, for 100 people who are otherwise fairly healthy. If they already have heart disease or are at very high risk, for example, then their benefit from Statin medications is probably much greater. Niacin probably is also helpful. A healthy diet, exercise, not smoking, and having a healthy family history are very important, also.

  21. BDH
    Reply

    My husband had quadruple bypass (no heart attack) in 1995. He seemed to recover physically fairly quickly, began working out again (As a former military officer, he has never been overweight.) However, he also began smoking again, seemed less happy and gradually began drinking routinely and more heavily.
    Over the past 2-3 years, his health has deteriorated to the point that my harping about his getting off the satins is finally getting his attention. At age 65, his memory is bad, he can’t concentrate, bruises easily, has leg cramps at night or when he walks for any distance (so exercise has gone by the wayside).
    His doctors, naturally, don’t want him to stop the statins (he’s been on several; now taking Simvastatin (Zocor) 80 mg, Lopressor 50 mg, Lisinopril 20 mg, hydrochlorothiazide 25 mg, and Cilostazol 100 mg. We know he can’t simply stop taking these drugs, but HOW CAN WE FIND A DOCTOR or doctors who are NOT tied the pharma and DO keep abreast of up-to-date alternative medical information?

  22. RLB
    Reply

    A year ago, I had a total cholesterol of 201 with LDL 125 and HDL 54. Of course.my doctor regaled me with the danger of high cholesterol and insisted that I was at significant risk for heart problems. Since I was 80 years old and had had higher cholesterol in the past, I told him that I would work it out myself. I started a regimen of Cholest-Off, Krill oil, garlic, 500 Mcg of chromium Picolinate along with my vitamin E and Q10.
    My last blood panel showed: total cholestrol 132, LDL 66 and HDL 50. The doctor asked me what I had done to get my cholesterol so low. When I told him, his only comment was, huh. Why is it so hard to convinced the brain washed medical community that statins and other prescription drugs are not the only answer?

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