"Your LDL cholesterol is too high. You need to take a statin drug to lower it or you risk dying from a heart attack." How many people have been told this and have bought into it? The number is astounding. And the sales of statin drugs reflect the situation. The current value of the statin drug industry is estimated at around $29 billion. Big Pharma is definitely taking it to the bank. And here's the problem. For the over 60 crowd, it's an outright lie. A new study shows that not only will taking a statin drug not lengthen your life, it will actually shorten it.
The authors of the study start off their report by pointing out something probably very few people know. The older you are, the less important your total cholesterol level becomes as a risk factor for both getting heart disease and for dying from anything. But what about LDL cholesterol? LDL cholesterol is the so-called "bad" cholesterol. Many doctors think that the lower it is the better off you are. But this new study shows this to be just the opposite of what really happens.
The authors of the study searched the entire U.S. Library of Medicine database (PubMed). They wanted to find all the studies that looked at the risk of dying from an elevated LDL cholesterol in men and women over 60. They found a total of 19 studies that followed a total of 68,094 people. What they found is sure to send some shock waves out to all those currently taking LDL-lowering drugs.
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The researchers found that 92% of the people showed an inverse relationship between their LDL levels and their chances of dying. What that means is that the higher their LDL levels were, the lower their chances of dying not just from heart disease but from any disease. And the lower their LDL levels were, the higher their chances of dying from anything. Amazing! That's just the opposite of what we were told.
Here's the conclusion the researchers came to in their own words, "High LDL cholesterol is inversely associated with mortality in most people over 60 years. This finding is inconsistent with the cholesterol hypothesis, i.e., that cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol, is inherently atherogenic [causes atherosclerosis]. Since elderly people with high LDL cholesterol live as long or longer than those with low LDL cholesterol, our analysis provides reason to question the validity of the cholesterol hypothesis. Moreover, our study provides the rationale for a re-evaluation of guidelines recommending pharmacological reduction of LDL cholesterol in the elderly as a component of cardiovascular disease prevention strategies."
This means that if you're over 60 and your LDL is high, that's good. It's time to celebrate. Statistically, you will live longer. And if you are over 60 and on a cholesterol-lowering drug, it's time to have a talk with your doctor. Statistically, you're shortening your life.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Ravnskov U, Diamond DM, et al. Lack of an association or an inverse association between low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol and mortality in the elderly: a systematic review. BMJ Open. 2016 Jun 12;6(6):e010401.