Like all “modern” doctors, mine had been after me for several years to get on the “statin bandwagon.” In a medical way, he was right: My HDL was running low 40s while my LDLs were up in the 260 area.
Still, I had trepidations about it: I’d read extensively on both sides of the studies (for and against) but had decided that I’d go along with the doc’s recommendation since he is in the business of prolonging my ability to pay for visits (as is the whole medical industry) . Second factor: Though a few years younger than me, had gone on statins himself.
The prescription was for the generic atorvastatin, 40 mg. Aggressive but he wanted some results…and I get that.
I began with the one pill per day as recommended. First day on was April 21st.
The first day, I didn’t feel too much change. Touch of asthma, or was that imagined?
Day two I felt a bit “off” but didn’t get too worked up about it.
Day three, subtle changes in appetite began. A steak for dinner that night only got two or three bites out of it. It just somehow didn’t taste “right.”
For the next week, my tastes changed – dramatically. In this period, I lost all taste for red meat, with only pork, chicken, and seafood (like shrimp) tasting any good.
A week, then two, then three went by and the sense of nausea grew a bit day by day.
I made notes on what was happening, so as to be able to review it with the doctor when time came. I’d been scheduled for a four-month blood draw from starting.
Finally, after noticing a large number of miserable, persistent symptoms I could only associate with the statin, Sunday spelled the end of my statin experiment.
My gums had started to bleed when I brushed my teeth. Never had that one before. Not only did they bleed, but when I did a 3% peroxide rinse, the foam came out medium pink.
That was it. The last straw for me.
Monday, I decided to write down the list of symptoms I had experienced and here’s what I’d gone through:
- Bleeding gums ( 3 1/2 weeks in)
- Evolving longer periods of nausea, peaking 2-6 hours after ingestion of the statin
- Large change in taste – can’t stomach red meat now
- 5 pounds of weight gain
- Body aches, muscle spasms, dull headache
- Sense of “missing mental acuity” [note 1]
- Increase in dry eye symptoms. [critical because I wear rigid gas permeable contacts.]
- Bottoms of feet became very sore (painful to walk)
- Eczema became worse
- BP remained in the 130/80 range with pulse 70-80 when working
I suppose you’re wondering “Gee, why’d he go through all THAT?”
When I read a lot of the literature on statins, it was made clear that “patient adherence” was a major factor. As I read deeply the number of people reporting symptoms seemed to be up in the 30% – 35% range. Not the 1-2% some health practitioners claim.
One good article I read beforehand was on the Weston Price Foundation site here.
Another, more recent (2015 update) Price Foundation article here is of interest, too.
Although I had read a lot more, including several books on inflammation as a cause of heart disease versus “cholesterol,” I was determined to follow my doctor’s advice, unless it became unquestionable that it was not efficacious.
Then came this weekend’s “bleeding gums” event.
That’s when statins and I parted company.
I’m sharing this with you NOT AS MEDICAL ADVICE, but as a sincere effort to encourage you, as I did, to document, document, document whenever you change anything major in your diet and medication routines.
Science with Holes in It
While there is some real promise in treating high LDL cholesterol (example article here), I have been deeply disappointed by the lack of correlation betweencholesterol and circulatory health based on genetics.
My family DNA is from cold northern European countries a few generations back. Places like Denmark and Scotland, to be precise. And I’ve always wondered if there isn’t a link between specific genome groups (haplotypes, I’m T6) and what “normal” is… You know Norwegians have different blood sugar levels because of the cold, right?
A read of Effects of atorvastatin on CYP3A4 and CYP3A5 mRNA expression in mononuclear cells and CYP3A activity in hypercholeresterolemic patients, gets us closer to the line of inquiry.
But try, though I did, I was not able to find specifics of which national origins had what specific genetic predispositions to statin treatments (or reactions). Logically, it should vary, but how?
To be sure, there is some statistical evidence to be found in PubMed.gov around the possibility that statins may extend the survival rates of certain personals with endocrine cancers. In addition, see Atorvastatin, a double weapon in osteoporosis treatment: an experimental and clinical study.
All of which encouraged my continued solid attempt.
But now from painful personal experience, I can tell at least one statin is not for me. It wasn’t just the muscle spasms, either, although do read Practical aspects in the management of statin-associated muscle symptoms (SAMS). Then talk to your doc.
Did I screw up my chances by also dosing with Vitamin D and Co-Q-10 (to flight depletion)? I thought it might help. See Statin Use and 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Blood Level Response to Vitamin D Treatment of Older Adults.
Perhaps in our rush to “get something good to market” the statin promoters missed a few important facts. Take this genetics angle.
I remember (Danish) friends of the family who lived in Portland. He (Carl) has been a sailor on the last of the Tall ships – huge steel square riggers. And he’d been shipwrecked a couple of times. Man was slight, perhaps 145, but tough as nails…
Even in his late 80’s, he was fit as a fiddle working in the garden, smoking two packs of Viceroys a day and drinking more than a cup of Canadian Club with an occasional splash of ‘7 in it; ice optional.
He explained to me that being shipwrecked was the best and worst time of his life. The hunger – well, it’s awful. But on the back side of it, seems to teach the body a LOT about how to survive.
Are statins little more than a way to deliberately interfere with the body’s natural uptake of nutrients by interfering with the vitamin D and Co-Q-10 processes from which comes cholesterol? Can’t say.
Might the “hinted at” “new studies” showing mid-life benefit “persisting a lifetime” from midlife use of statins has missed the benefits of a period of hunger?
I read deeply when I was living on my sailboat about minimal diets and today the relationship between food uptake and survival is clarifying: A Gizmodo article this year explains how “How Living Near the Starvation Point Can Extend Lifespan.” Not sure this is good news, or bad. One thing for sure, though, a period of starvation is harder to monetize than a pill.
You’ll find plenty of articles coming out explaining How the Ketogenic Diet Weakens Cancer Cells and a lot more. Ketogenic diets reduce or remove sugar intake which, in turn, seems to have something to “teach” the body health.
But before you start skipping meals, though, remember that in the ketogenic state you can flip into acidosis and then…well, then you need to be around real medicine.
Still, the article “Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients” has me leaning in that direction now. Time to study up on natural appetite suppressants.
I guess my personal bottom line was nicely summarized in the February paper this year ” Intensive LDL-cholesterol lowering therapy and neurocognitive function. ” which says in its abstract, in part:
“Prospective controlled studies comparing the short- and long-term effects of different statins on cognitive function are warranted. The effects of intensive LDL-C lowering on neurocognition might be attributed to an off-target effect. It is also possible that pre-existing pathology and vascular risk may already be present outweighing any effect related to lipids. Gender, genetic, LDL-C-related genotypes and aging-related changes should also be considered. Some data indicate that carriers of apolipoprotein E (apoE) ?-4 allele, with low levels of apoA1 and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol have a distinct plasma lipid profile and may be more susceptible to neurocognitive dysfunction. Future research on lipid-lowering drugs and cognition is needed; careful study design and analysis will be critical.”
Amen, brothers, get back to me when it’s complete.
I’m still open to medication that will improve my long-term survival rate (which is still finite, at least until I can be downloaded into a video game, lol….wait, are we on one already?).
But until then, any benefit from statin use (for me) would likely be offset by the bleeding gums, pain walking on my feet, and wanting to puke all the time.
By Sunday, starvation was sounding pretty good.
Got the new studies done, yet? I’ll try a good T-bone again…if the appetite for red meat comes back and I’m back to eating again.
Write when you get rich,