Statins or Supplements: What’s the Answer to a Healthier Heart?
Statins or Supplements: What’s the Answer to a Healthier Heart?
The debate about how to stave off heart disease and maintain healthy cholesterol levels has come into sharp focus again of late, as the medical community debates a recommendation about statin use passed down by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
In this article we'll explain exactly what the recommendation said, as well as take a closer look at statin side effects, disagreements among doctors concerning statin use, the role of coenzyme Q10 in relation to statins, statin alternatives and plenty more besides.
Heart Disease Treatment: The Statin Debate
The recommendation, made earlier this year, advises cardiologists to prescribe statins to Americans in the 40-75 age range if they already have one or more risk factors of cardiovascular disease.
Risk factors, which are defined as conditions which put an individual at a 10% or higher risk of heart attack, include diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure or a smoking habit.
Practitioners, however, continue to wrangle about the appropriateness of statins for low-risk patients, particularly those who have not suffered consequences of the gradual narrowing of arteries owing to waxy cholesterol build-up in the blood vessels.
Indeed, some physicians have poured scorn on the task force recommendation, which would see many more Americans compelled to use statins. Recent research put the current figure at 40 million.
Statins have long represented a thorny topic in the medical community. While they work to keep your cholesterol levels under control, they can also have the negative effect of depleting the body of vital compounds and chemicals.
Patients have also expressed distrust over statins, stemming from the fact that NHS bosses offer GP practices financial incentives to increase the number of patients given the cholesterol-lowering medication.
According to a 2019 study, half of the patients taking statins have a ‘sub-optimal’ response after two years of treatment.
Doctors Disagree About Statins
The USPSTF study that led to the new recommendation focused on six randomised clinical trials, with Dr Doug Owens – a professor at Stanford University – concluding “the research showed that low-to-moderate potency statins can help prevent heart attack, stroke or even death.”
The task force’s judgement came under heavy criticism from, among others, Dr Rita Redberg, professor and cardiologist at UC San Francisco’s medical school.
“Everyone agrees that there is a very small chance that any particular person taking statins for primary prevention will actually have any provable benefit,” she said, citing the USPSTF evidence report, which found that one death was averted for every 233 low-to-moderate risk patients using statins.
Her assertion was echoed by fellow cardiologist Dr Eric Topol: “This recommendation, if fully implemented, would have something like ten million more Americans taking statins regularly. There is no evidence to support this extremely broad recommendation.”
Topol has been a long-time critic of statin use for primary prevention, having previously argued against what he termed the “statinization of our population.”
Discussing widespread statin use in 2014, he remarked, “The benefits are tiny and the risks are also not trivial.”
Coenzyme Q10 and Statins
One side effect of statin medication that is often overlooked pertains to CoQ10. If you’re taking statin medication to address high cholesterol, the likelihood is that your normal CoQ10 levels will be depleted.
CoQ10 – coenzyme Q10 – is a highly effective antioxidant found in every cell, one that generates energy, balances electrons and combats free radicals.
Thankfully, CoQ10 can be found in many food sources including meat, fish and whole grains, though conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s can cause CoQ10 levels to rapidly diminish.
Naturally-occurring levels of CoQ10 also decrease with age – which is concerning, since scientists have drawn associations between CoQ10 deficiency and both heart disease and cancer.
There is some evidence indicating that supplemental coenzyme Q10 may reduce the muscle soreness that statins sometimes cause.
Alternatives to Statins for Heart Health
It is worth noting that there are statin alternatives that may be just as effective, but preferable in other respects.
And the benefits may increase if more than one method is followed, for example pairing a cardiac diet with heart-healthy supplements.
QuattroCardio is a dietary supplement you might want to look at. It combines four powerful heart-protective nutrients and is recommended for by men and women over the age of 35.
Importantly, the supplement contains the Ubiquinol form of CoQ10, the type most successfully absorbed by the body.
Further ingredients include omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA and Vitamins D3 and K2, both of which have roles in cardiovascular and immune health. These ingredients are provided in significant amounts, to provide a meaningful effect.
Vitamin C is another especially beneficial nutrient for those who are using, or might otherwise use, a statin. Indeed, one 2014 study showed that combining a statin with a Vitamin C supplement proved “significantly more effective”.
That said, Dr. Mehmut Oz notes that the anti-inflammatory effect of cholesterol-lowering statins can be inhibited by taking more than 200mg of vitamin C (or more than 100 IU of vitamin E) per day as a supplement.
However, because vitamin C helps the body recycle cholesterol in the first place, and because a deficiency of vitamin C causes cholesterol levels to rise, it may be smart to simply up your vitamin C levels before resorting to a statin.
The simple fact is, statins are not the only means of preventing heart disease and assuring quality of life. In fact, their side effects – which are also widely debated – are what drive many to eagerly explore other options.
One should not underestimate, for instance, the immense benefits conferred by increased exercise, an improved diet and other smart lifestyle interventions.
Supplements such as QuattroCardio, too, can play an important role in fortifying our bodies against an array of debilitating conditions and ensuring optimal health.
Food for thought while statin use continues to divide opinion.