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Are Statins the Best Way to Prevent Heart Disease? |

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Are Statins the Best Way to Prevent Heart Disease?
Are Statins the Best Way to Prevent Heart Disease?

McLean, VA - March 28, 2012Odds are, you or someone you know is currently taking a “statin,” a category of cholesterol-reducing medications commonly prescribed to decrease the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Usually recognized by the brand names “Crestor” and “Lipitor,” statins are multi-billion dollar industry, with millions of new prescriptions filled each week.  

“Looking at the rate of new prescriptions, one might think that we’ve finally identified a drug that can successfully prevent heart disease,” says Dr. Gary Kaplan, founder and medical director of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine.  Statins are being widely prescribed to patients who have higher than normal cholesterol levels – in hopes of reducing their risk of developing heart disease. “But unfortunately,” Dr. Kaplan explains, “the medical research to date indicates that statins have very limited usefulness in reducing cardiac risk unless the patient already has a personal history of heart disease.”

One reason for this is that statins are designed to reduce cholesterol, but cholesterol is only one factor that puts an individual at risk for having a heart attack or stroke.  Risk is assessed by reviewing a number of factors including: whether an individual smoked, was overweight, or had diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, or a family of history of heart disease.  Dr. Kaplan says that a large body of medical research demonstrates that inflammation is a much more reliable predictor of one’s risk of developing heart disease than is cholesterol, and that inflammation is best measured by looking at a patient’s C-reactive protein (CRP) levels.

By making lifestyle changes, such as adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, engaging in regular exercise, practicing daily meditation, getting enough sleep, and giving up smoking, inflammation often can be reduced dramatically.  According to Dr. Kaplan, “When a patient has a history of heart disease and when lifestyle changes haven’t succeeded in reducing inflammation -- then it’s time to consider prescribing a statin medication. ”

 A 2010 study found that statins, when used for the purpose of primary prevention (preventing the development of any heart disease), helped in only 2 percent of patients with a medium cardiovascular risk and in only 3 percent of patients with a high cardiovascular risk.  On the other hand, when statins were taken by patients who had already had a heart attack, a stroke, or been diagnosed with heart disease (in other words, for the purpose of secondary prevention) statins were able to reduce cardiovascular mortality by up to 36 percent.

Dr. Kaplan says that some patients ask, “Even if the effectiveness of statins is limited, why not prescribe statins to every patient – what harm could it do?” Kaplan’s answer: “Plenty!”

Recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its safety guidelines for statins.  The new guidelines warn patients and health care providers that statins may cause memory loss and increase a person’s risk of developing Type-II diabetes.  Statin’s established side effects already included: muscle pain or weakness, headaches, sore throat, sinusitis, nausea, and liver problems.

In sum, there are considerable medical risks associated with taking statins, and for most individuals, there are better ways to reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

Here are six steps from Dr. Kaplan to help you reduce inflammation, lower your risk of heart disease, and improve your overall health and sense of well-being:   


1. Make sleep a priority.  Quality sleep of 7-9 hours each night will reduce inflammation and is essential for optimum physical and mental health.

2. Incorporate meditation into your daily routine.   

3. Take part in regular, physical exercise.     

4. Maintain a diet high in anti-oxidants and low in inflammatory foods.

5. Supplement your diet with 1.5 grams/day of Omega-3 fish oil.  Omega-3 fatty acids provide a range of health benefits to reduce your risk of heart disease, including reducing inflammation, cholesterol levels and blood-pressure levels.

6. Take 100 mg/day of CoQ10.   This enzyme works as an antioxidant and enhances the energy production within the cells.  If you are over 50 years old, take 100 mg/day of UBQH, a form of CoQ10 that’s easier for your body to absorb.

Ultimately, there is a lot each of us can do to prevent heart disease without turning to statins or other prescription medications. You and your physician can work together to figure out the best course of action for your unique situation and to determine whether medications are right for you.  

About Dr. Gary Kaplan and The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine: The Center’s founder and medical director is Dr. Gary Kaplan.  Board-certified in Family Medicine, Pain Medicine and Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Kaplan is also a Clinical Associate Professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and he has served as a consultant at the National Institutes of Medicine (NIH). To learn more about The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, visit the website at www.kaplanclinic.com.



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