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Heart Health

Cholesterol and statins: it’s no longer just about the numbers

November 13, 2013

About the Author

photo of Reena L. Pande, MD

Reena L. Pande, MD, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Reena Pande is a cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. Her research focuses on the mechanisms by which exercise benefits people with cardiovascular disease. See Full Bio
View all posts by Reena L. Pande, MD


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No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


Thomas Davis
January 5, 2014

If you do believe that you are suffering from hypothyroidism don’t panic. I would recommend visiting a doctor to get some professional advice on the matter and determine the severity of the condition. Sometimes the doctor will recommend removing the gland all together – if it is has become too infected. If the doctor has to remove the gland, it will be up to you to provide your body with the chemicals that the gland is unable to produce for you. In other words, it will be recommended to stock up on a wide variety of supplements.

David R
January 3, 2014

And what evidence is there that these drugs lower risk of heart attacks or stroke? Absolutely none, other than the anecdotal belief that lower “cholesterol” is better.
And in fact the people who end up getting joint replacement surgery due to side effects of joint pain are at thousands or more times more risk of dying.

January 1, 2014

The information is very helpful. ..although I knew this already, the article provides more details. My question is this, just having high cholesterol levels, is this considered having heart disease?

Richard Tew
December 20, 2013

Is there a limit to how low LDL can be safely lowered? Can the LDL get ‘too low’, raising risk of other problems? (I see mention elsewhere of mood disorders, hemorrhagic stroke, even cancer.) Am particularly interested in this question in male > 60 yo with history of Hypertension (controlled with multiple meds), History of stroke (never established whether hemorrhagic or thrombotic), and treatment (seemingly well tolerated) with statin so LDL < 40.
How is too low? Is any low value OK? Do we have evidence based medicine to support claims of safety of very low LDL levels?
Thanks for any response.

November 30, 2013

Thanks for your information..Its very useful to all..America! Research why your Cholesterol levels are elevated! What do the standard tests really show? They are using old tainted clinical trial. You’d be surprised at what really raises your cholesterol!

Obat Kencing Nanah
November 24, 2013

tang your all information..

Paul Johnson
November 22, 2013


Barry Collier
November 22, 2013

Read ‘The Great Cholesterol Myth” before starting use of statin drugs. Cholesterol is not the problem when it comes to heart disease. Yet the use of harmful statin drugs persists. The side effects of statins do not out weigh the benefits. Proper diet and exercise are far more beneficial and produce no side effects. It seems that cholesterol reducing statins are treating a “problem” that doesn’t need to be treated. In fact, cholesterol has many benefits and is necessary for the human body to function properly. This is a complex issue and there seems to be many opinions on statin drugs. Read the book before making any decisions about statin use. It was very beneficial to me.

Robert Bramel
January 2, 2014

Barry, you are so right! As a data point, I’m a 67 year old male with FH, my serum cholesterol has been over 600 for the last 6 years and my LDL is currently 517, yet I have zero !! coronary plaque by EBCT. rarely in the last 50 years has my total C been below 300, even when taking maximal meds. My last stress ultrasound showed my heart was I decades younger than 67 even though I’m not an exerciser. The experts, including Dr. Freeman of Harvard, have no explanation for any of this and as nearly as I can tell, no interest. Mostly I’m told that I’m at grave risk if I don’t get my levels down, but since stopping all meds six years ago, my muscle strength has vastly improved, my mental sharpness jumped (ask my wife) my “pre-diabetes” abated, and my LDL particle size is almost off-scale large (i.e., non-atherogenic).
I just read an abstract of a study that tried to locate the “atherogenic lipid profile” as to whether it is located within the LDLR segment. Conclusion was it is not! No surprise here.

November 22, 2013

I am with your other respondents who are deeply concerned about the easy of Prescription drugs, over genuine lifestyle change for better health.
Clearly for Diabetics, with a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease the chance of further increasing blood sugars makes these guidelines far from helpful.

Lets get back to personal responsibility and healthy diet choices

November 18, 2013

Great article
November 18, 2013

Great article. Health is wealth. Lot of people tend to lose their mental stability and induce suicide if the health is not taken care by doing constant workout and food habits.

Live In Care Worker Jobs
November 16, 2013

Great article
I will put it in mind

November 16, 2013

I am a diabetic with Type 2 Insulin-Dependent. My HDL is 67 & My LDL is 128 but my Triglycerides are 255. Total Cholesterol is 246. I had really high LDL & low HDL until I started taking Coconut Oil capsules and also cooking with it. I made no other dietary changes at that time. I was having problems with Blood Sugar Control but that is resolving also. Do you think that the Coconut Oil is what is helping? I took it because I heard it would help with arthritis.

arlene corwin
November 16, 2013

Statins led directly to a muscle weakness and leg pain so dire, I, a naturally muscular woman could not get up from a squat position. I took a break. Came back a year or so later normalized, but with a high LDL. Started taking a new statin, but this time tried taking them every other day( instead of daily). I sensed muscular weakness again. Now I’ve stopped altogether.
I’m 79, teach a yoga class, attend a gym class once a week, eat as an intelligent and informed eater should, but drink coffee; sit at my computer several hours a day. What now?
It’s in the lap of the gods and my genes perhaps.

Dr. Andrew Wojcicki
November 15, 2013

I have not seen such disregard to very potential side effect of statin in producing this guideline. Where is molecular medicine, where is the role of CoQ10 in ATP to ADP , cycle of Krebs ,Cataracts, Demantia DM, kidney Failure, mayophaty including cardiac is more than enough to stop this statistical madness. Pfizer stock up from23.55 to 31.87!!!

November 15, 2013

I am 55 and have very high LDLs. I have CAD. Statins lowered my cholestrol significantly. However, after a number of years my liver was damaged (it healed itself!) Now I am trying other col lowering meds with very little success. I am on three now. I will continue to eat healthy, exercise, and try to enjoy life, as I beleive these are my best medicines.

Ben Jensen
November 29, 2013

You have a similar situation to me. I actually had a heart attacks before statins. Started statins, but stopped because the muscle aches prevented me from exercising. Really uncomfortable.

My physician (Mayo Clinic), recommended a food alternative called StepOneHeart. See Lowered my LDL, by 50 points after going off statins. Feel great. Actually lost weight too. Try the chocolate crunch bars. I eat one everyday.

Ask you physician about it. If you email them, Dr. Klodas will actually respond to you if you have questions.

Constance Golden, RD,LDN
November 14, 2013

Why are we so quick in this society to prescribe medicine over a healthy lifestyle? Why not focus on a healthy diet and exercise first before we jump into prescriptions with their inevitable side effects? Answer: because it is hard work and takes commitment vs. easy and immediate.

Alice McElroy
November 14, 2013

Most of the above information in this Harvard Health Blog relating to cholesterol and heart health is incorrect. The side-effects from statins are awful. Statins bring about Alzheimers, dementia, problems with memory, erectile dysfunction, low testosterone. The American Journal of Cardiology found that statin medications actually increased the risk of death. More information regarding cholesterol and heart health, with scientific studies can be found in the book Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, M.D. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a more accurate picture about heart health, cholesterol, statins, inflammation,brain health and much more.

Harvey Grove
November 14, 2013

You can believe what you want, however, the majority of EXPERTS AGREE that statins are beneficial. You do not have to take them if you prefer, but I do not think you can convince many to go along with your rants about side effects. Lipitor has already been PROOVED to lower risk and and incidence of heart attacks and stroke. There is a joke among doctors that they should be added to drinking water. (THAT IS ONLY A JOKE. IT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN because ALL DRUGS HAVE SIDE EFFECTS, consequently, some people would have them and some can be serious. That is why they are prescription drugs as opposed to OTC (over the counter) products. When it comes to numbers (lab results) of your LDL or HDL my doc says,”I do not treat numbers. I treat patients”.

Kurt Housh
November 14, 2013

Just keep in mind that all science is incomplete, or completely wrong.

Ten years from now how will the medical community respond to this issue? In 50 years this will look like a treatment from the dark ages.

Grandma was always right, eat your vegetables, get plenty of rest, and go outside and play. Oh and avoid anything with Monsanto corn in it, like American beef.

Montanette Bennett
November 15, 2013

I agree totally with your comments. Thank you.
More insight, wisdom is necessary to run our life . Eating healthily , cooking more to know what contains our food, practicing mindfullness to be able to enjoy the present moment instead of letting our thoughts run in all directions creating a fearful, stressful ,pointless life.
Taking time to listen to the music of the soul and taking our strength in the silence between the thoughts. And most of all to be loving and compassionate to ourself and the world around us.

Dr. Stephen Sinatra
November 14, 2013

While many aspects of these new guidelines concern me, one of the biggest is the concerns I have is the recommendation to use statin in people with diabetes. First off, statins can actually contribute to type 2 diabetes. In fact, last year the FDA began requiring statin manufacturers to put a diabetes warning on their labels. So giving statins to people who already have diabetes doesn’t make sense.

Plus, the data demonstrates that for men with diabetes statin drug use can lead to calcification of the coronary arteries. There’s also documented evidence that cataracts are more common in those taking statin drugs. And since people with diabetes are already more prone to cataracts, the use of statins for this population can be harmful.

A far better intervention for people with type 2 diabetes, or pre-diabetes, is lifestyle changes—including diet therapy; weight reduction; avoidance of sugars; exercise; use of raw foods, particularly vegetables; and targeted nutritional supplements.

Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Board Certified Cardiologist
Assistant Clinical Profession, Connecticut University School of Medicine

Mary Lefferman
November 15, 2013

Yes Dr. Stephen I agree 100% percent with you! I wish all the rest of the Medical world will join you!

Commenting has been closed for this post.

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