Hold the Lipitor, Doc…

High cholesterol brings a lot of folks into my office.  Some key points of the discussion I have about this topic include:

  • High cholesterol is not a disease; it’s merely a marker, or risk factor, for development of cardiovascular disease.
  • It’s not a perfect correlation; a significant percentage of people with normal cholesterol levels have heart attacks, also.  (That’s why we must look at other markers, including hsCRP, ferritin, vitamin D, etc.)
  • If you are a woman with no previous heart attack or stroke, there is no evidence that statin drugs reduce your risk of dying.
A recent large epidemiological study from Norway found that our current cholesterol guidelines do not accurately reflect risk of cardiovascular deaths.  In fact, folks with too low cholesterol levels are at increased risk of death, as well as those with extremely high levels.  The authors conclude:
“Based on epidemiological analysis of updated and comprehensive population data, we found that the underlying assumptions regarding cholesterol in clinical guidelines for CVD prevention might be flawed: cholesterol emerged as an overestimated risk factor in our study, indicating that guideline information might be misleading, particularly for women with ‘moderately elevated’ cholesterol levels…”
(Interesting to note, too, that this study was funded by public health and physicians’ organizations, not pharmaceutical companies…)

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