In 1987 Mevacorâ(lovastatin) was introduced as the very first drug to reduce cholesterol for people at high risk of a heart attack or stroke. That same year there were 17,642 diagnosed cases of Alzheimer’s disease in the United States and for Canada there were no numbers available because the actual number of reported cases was not a significant enough number for reporting purposes. By 1998, most of the major drug companies had marketed their own versions of statin drugs and Mevacorâ, Pravacholâ, Zocorâ and Lipitorâ became the number one group of prescribed drugs in North America. In that same year, the United States Census indicated over 400,000 confirmed cases of Alzheimer’s disease and in Canada we had almost 40,000 reported cases. Are these two statistics related to each other, or is this just a coincidence? How did the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease progress from an insignificant rare disease to the fourth leading cause of death in North America in such a short period of time?
During that 12 year period the population increased by 2% and longevity increased by two years for men and by three years for women. However, the greatest population jump in Alzheimer’s disease, 46%, occurred among baby boomers aged 45 to 54. I believe that possibly the excessive use of statin drugs may be one of the main causes of this huge increase in Alzheimer’s disease
Cholesterol is produced in your liver and is the healing substance of the body. Because our bodies depend on oxygen, we must have a constant supply. Without it we would be dead in 20 minutes. However, this large amount of oxygen in our bodies results in excessive free oxygen radicals that can damage our bodies. When we fall asleep, our bodies produce certain amounts of cholesterol in response to the amount of free radical damage. LDL (low density lipoprotein) molecules are the thick and gooey substances produced by the liver to cover over the damaged areas and patch them up. However, because they stay in your body and can accumulate, this protein is known as “bad” cholesterol. The excess that is not used, dissolves in the HDL (high density lipoprotein) and is washed out of your bloodstream and excreted and hence HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol. Our brains require more oxygen than any other part of our body and the hippocampus, that part of our brain responsible for memory, suffers the largest amount of free oxygen radical damage. But what if there was not enough cholesterol produced to repair this daily damage? Could this lead to premature oxidation damage and the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease?
As the twentieth century evolved, the medical profession established guidelines to distinguish between healthy and non-healthy people. Excellent blood pressure was 120 millimeters of mercury over 80 millimeters of mercury. Your blood sugar should be between 4.5 and 6.5 milimoles per litre of blood and your cholesterol levels should be between 5.2 and 5.8 mg/ml of whole blood. At first, these cholesterol levels were sufficient for drug companies to sell billions of dollars worth of drugs to fight high cholesterol. Then greed set in. If they could change the guidelines down to 4.0 or less, imagine how much more they could sell. In fact, last year Parke Davis sold 14 billion dollars worth of Lipitorâ in the United States alone and Lipitorâ is the number one prescribed drug in the world. To add to the confusion, drug companies are busy producing study after study indicating many other uses for their statin drugs. So far they suggest we take statins for Alzheimer’s, Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Diabetes and even Cancer. These are the same people that told us that all their studies showed that HRT’s were beneficial to a woman’s health and longevity.
Most adults stay in reasonably good health until their forties and from this age on they start visiting their physician on a more regular basis. It is almost a certainty that you will have a statin drug prescribed for you for one reason or another. But what effect will this have on your body? Most people do not experience any side effects. The most common is muscle pain and if this happens you should stop immediately because the fibers of your muscles are deteriorating because of the drug. The main effect of reducing your body’s ability to produce cholesterol means that there may not be enough cholesterol produced to repair all the damages. The hippocampus is a specific part of your brain responsible for memory and it gradually deteriorates with age. Free oxygen radicals hasten the deterioration and the absence of enough healing cholesterol could result in premature aging of this part of your brain. A second effect of statin drugs is that they reduce the liver’s ability to produce Coenzyme Q10, a very important naturally occurring anti-oxidant. In fact, a recent study in the Archives of Neurology done in June 2004 showed that the newest statin drug, Crestorâ(atorvastatin) reduced Coenzyme Q10 levels by more than 50%. This reduction of Coenzyme Q10 production reduces by one-half the body’s ability to repair oxidation damage to the hippocampus.
I feel that as our bodies age, we must produce larger and larger amounts of cholesterol in response to the accumulated damage of the years. Many people naturally have high levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and this gives them high total cholesterol, which may be over the guidelines but does not present any type of health risk. The fact still remains that 80% of the people who have heart attacks and strokes had normal levels of cholesterol before their attacks.
If you take anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E or Grapeseed Extract, your body will produce much lower levels of cholesterol because it simply is not needed as much. Your anti-oxidants are repairing the free oxygen radical damage and saving your body the work. Furthermore, people who take anti-oxidants on a regular basis very rarely succumb to Alzheimer’s. Taking fish oil or flax oil daily gives you a greater proportion of good cholesterol (HDL) to bad cholesterol (LDL).
Walking 35 to 40 minutes a day and eliminating trans fats from your diet, can lower your total cholesterol by 16 to 20%.
Last year a group of pharmacologists at the University of British Columbia studied five clinical trials of statins that were done over a 3 to 5 year period. They concluded that if you took lipid-lowering drugs as prescribed and brought your cholesterol levels down to the numbers requested by your physicians, your chances of having a heart attack or stroke were reduced by only 1.4%. This was an independent study that was not funded by any of the major drug companies. This tells me that the marketing of statins is just a huge cash-grab by the pharmaceuticals to bolster their sales. If there is even a slight risk that these drugs could cause an otherwise healthy person to develop Alzheimer’s, I would certainly avoid that risk by staying away from these drugs altogether.