Statins are the top selling prescription drugs of all time worth an estimated 20 billion dollars in worldwide sales. With over 12 million prescriptions writ- ten every year in Canada, it has become the most prescribed class of drug in this country. But according to researchers, for 40% of Canadians, they don’t work.
Statins, which include drugs such as Lipitor, Crestor, Mevacor, Zocor and Pravachol are prescribed for people who have been diagnosed with high cholesterol, specifically LDL, which in Canada represents about 40% of the population.
In 60% of people, statins have proven to be very effective at lowering cholesterol levels and thus reducing the risk of heart attack. But for the remaining 40% of people, statins are not effective at lowering blood LDL. Canadian researchers may have discovered why. In a study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, researchers reported that a protein called resistin, which is secreted by fatty tissue, increases the production of LDL and the accumu- lation of LDL in the arteries, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease. This research also found that resistin negatively impacts the effects of statins, which would explain why such a large percentage of people do not get expected results when taking statin drugs.
These finding underscore the importance of a comprehensive approach to managing heart disease risk factors. Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, not smoking, and controlling body weight are of paramount importance in the prevention of heart disease.
When it comes to diet, numerous studies have found that certain foods can play a powerful role in heart disease prevention, namely, vegetables and fruits, which provide valuable antioxidants vitamins, minerals and fibre, and fish, which provides beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
This brings us to the latest “fishy” report, which has created quite a stir. In this report, researchers re-analyzed previous clinical studies and concluded that fish oil supplements don’t reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke or sudden death. While those taking omega-3 supplements had a 9% lower rate of heart-related death compared with the controls, and an 11% lower rate of heart attack, these differences were deemed to be too small to attribute to the omega-3 supplements.
This new report contradicts several previous studies that reported benefits with fish and fish oil supplements for heart health, creating a lot of confusion.
Researchers are quick to point out that several factors may have contributed to these surprising findings: most of the people in these studies had existing heart disease, the dos- ages and quality of the fish oils supplements varied, and the studies included participants with pre-existing conditions and those who were taking prescription drugs, such as statins.
The bottom line is that there is still an abundance of evidence supporting the benefits of fish oil for lowering cholesterol and triglycerides and reducing inflammation and clotting. And fish oils are very safe. Fish oil supplements, like femMED Heart Health, are particularly important for those who are unable to consume the recommended two or more servings of fatty fish per week.
There are numerous fish oil supplements on the market and choosing the right product can be daunting. According to Sherry Torkos, pharmacist and author of Saving Women’s Hearts, it is important to look for a product made by a reputable manufacturer to ensure you are getting the benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids without potential contaminants such as mercury and lead. Torkos also recommends choosing a formula that contains coenzyme Q10.
Coenzyme Q10 is a potent antioxidant. It is found in every cell in our body and plays a vital role in energy production, particularly in the heart. Studies have shown that coenzyme Q10 protects LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and also helps lower blood pressure. The body manufactures coenzyme Q10 and small amounts are also obtained from diet. Levels of coenzyme Q10 decline with age and are also depleted in those who take statin drugs.
Statins reduce the body’s production of coenzyme Q10 and this may contribute to the side effects people experience when taking statins, such as muscle pain and weakness. The elderly, those with congestive heart failure, and those taking high dosages of statins are at greatest risk. Individuals taking statins should consider a quality heart health supplement containing 100-200mg of coenzyme Q10 per daily dose.
Sherry Torkos also recom- mends some heart healthy foods to include in your diet:
•Drink green tea, which contains antioxidants that offer benefits for the heart.
•Garlic helps reduce cholesterol, thin the blood, and has antioxidant properties.
• Moderate alcohol consumption (one drink for women daily and two for men) has been shown to have heart-protective effects. Alcohol increases protective HDL cholesterol and also helps to thin the blood. Higher amounts can be hard on the liver and increase blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
•Nuts (almonds and walnuts) help lower cholesterol levels. Nuts contain fibre and nutrients such as vitamin E, alpha-linolenic acid, magnesium, potassium, and arginine, which are important for heart health.
•Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that can help reduce blood clots and lower LDL cholesterol.
•Soluble fibre—found in oats, flaxseed, beans, psyllium, and fruits—helps lower cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibre—found in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits—does not lower cholesterol, but studies have shown that it helps protect against heart disease.