I remember when I graduated from medical school, the dean told our class, “What we have just taught you was the most up-to-date information about medicine. Unfortunately, 50% of what we taught you was wrong. Your job is to figure out which 50% was wrong.”
I remember feeling stunned at the Dean’s admission. Now, 26 years later, I think the dean was too conservative. Now I feel that approximately 75% of what I was taught was wrong.
In my training, I was taught that high cholesterol was a risk factor for heart disease. Furthermore, I was taught that a high triglyceride level was also a risk factor for heart disease. It was drilled into every medical student’s head that a lower cholesterol was always better than a higher one.
Folks, what I was taught about cholesterol was 100% wrong. What I was not taught was that approximately 50% of people who suffer heart attacks have normal cholesterol levels. Furthermore, I was not taught that a higher cholesterol level was predictive of a longer life span in the elderly. Nor was I taught that lowering cholesterol levels with cholesterol-lowering medications fails well over 97% of the patients who takes them.
A recent study in Critical Care Medicine (43:1255-1264, 2015) is titled, “Lipid Paradox in Acute Myocardial Infarction- The Association with 30-Day In-Hospital Mortality.” This study followed 724 hospitalized patients who suffered an acute heart attack (i.e., myocardial infarction). The scientists attempted to clarify the relationship between the lipid profiles and the 30-day mortality in patients who suffered a heart attack.
The authors found that those with lower LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride levels had a significantly elevated mortality risk when compared to patients with higher LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In fact, lower LDL-cholesterol less than 110 mmg/dl and triglyceride less than 62.5 mmg/dl were identified as optimal threshold values for predicting 30-day mortality. The lower LDL-cholesterol level was associated with a 65% increased mortality and the lower triglyceride level was associated with a 405% increased mortality. Furthermore, as compared to patients with LDL-cholesterol levels >110mg/dl and triglycerides >62.5 mg/dl, those with lowered LDL and triglyceride levels had a 990% (or 10.9x) increased risk for mortality.
Why would lowered cholesterol and triglyceride levels be associated with a higher mortality rate? Fats from triglycerides are a major energy source and LDL-cholesterol is critical for cell membrane synthesis and is needed to fight infections. Adequate LDL-cholesterol and triglyceride levels may be critical for cell function and survival in the case of a heart attack—as well as in other conditions.
Folks, we have been hoodwinked to believe that we must all take cholesterol-lowering medications in order to prevent and/or treat heart disease. People do not get heart disease because their cholesterol level is elevated. Remember, 50% of patients who suffer a heart attack have normal cholesterol levels.
I have written extensively about the failure and danger of statin drugs in my book, The Statin Disaster. If you are taking or contemplating taking a statin medication, I would encourage you to educate yourself about what statins do in the body. Unfortunately, you cannot depend on your doctor to give you a balanced view of statins as most do not understand how statins poison the human biochemistry and the adverse effects associated with their use. I feel, since they fail the vast majority who take them—over 97%–and they are associated with serious adverse effects, statins should be pulled from the market place.
Remember, you are ultimately responsible for your medical decisions. The patients with the best results are the patients who take an active role in their health care decisions and educated themselves about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
(1) Am Heart J. 2009;157(1):111–117.e2