I'm not a big fan of statins. Unless a patient has had a stroke or heart attack, I think they're more dangerous than they are effective. But many doctors continue to dish them out like candy. And if your cholesterol levels are even a little bit high, they'll likely write you a statin prescription without thinking twice about it — even if you have absolutely no evidence of cardiovascular disease. The problem with that approach, beyond the dangerous side effects of statins, is that it fails to consider what's actually causing your high cholesterol in the first place. And without that information, there's no way to know whether statins are going to help you or hurt you.
In particular, your high cholesterol level could actually be a result of low thyroid function or hypothyroidism. Having hypothyroidism increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. And one of the reasons for this is the effects of the dysfunction on your lipid profile. Hypothyroidism in particular can cause your LDL (lousy) cholesterol and your triglycerides to increase, and your HDL (healthy) cholesterol to drop.
Thyroid hormones have a number of effects on our lipoprotein metabolism. They stimulate the first step in cholesterol biosynthesis and they control the activation of the LDL receptor gene. The hormone T3 in particular helps keep LDL from oxidizing.
Beyond affecting your cholesterol levels, your thyroid hormones can help or hurt a number of other cardiovascular risk factors, and if your end game is avoiding a heart attack, you need to do more than simply lower your cholesterol. For example, hypothyroidism has been linked to insulin resistance, oxidative stress, atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome and weight gain, all of which can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. But if you get your thyroid levels adjusted to healthy levels, you may be able to knock out many of these risk factors in one fell swoop.
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While hypothyroidism is more strongly associated with cardiovascular disease, particularly with high cholesterol, hyperthyroidism brings its own set of issues to the table. So it's important to seek treatment no matter which end of the spectrum you're on. Getting thyroid function back to normal has been proven to help improve lipid levels and reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
If you have elevated cholesterol, it could very well be due to hypothyroidism. But here's the problem. As I've reported to you before, when only thyroid blood tests are used to diagnose hypothyroidism, more than 90% of hypothyroid cases are missed. The only accurate way to diagnose who needs thyroid and who doesn't is by measuring metabolic rate. That's because thyroid hormones exert their fantastic effects by controlling metabolism. If your metabolic rate is low, you need thyroid no matter what the blood tests say.
And here's another problem. As important as metabolic rate is for the correct diagnosis of hypothyroidism, very few doctors are equipped to measure it. It takes special equipment. I have been measuring the metabolic rate of every one of my patients for over 15 years. And I can tell you that it's one of the most important things I can do for them. You can find a list of doctors who offer this amazing technology at: www.antiagingmedicine.com/treatments/bio-energy-testing. The test is called Bio-Energy Testing. And you can learn all about it in my book Bursting With Energy.
Given their side effects, I think statins should be prescribed only as a last resort and only when you already have a documented case of cardiovascular disease. And if your cholesterol is high because of hypothyroidism, there's no reason at all a statin would benefit you.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD