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Statin-Takers Need Healthful Lifestyles Too

People who take statin drugs to prevent heart attacks still need to eat healthfully, exercise more and control their weight. According to a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine, over the last ten years people who take statin drugs have:
• increased their intake of calories by nearly ten percent,
• increased fat intake by 14 percent, and
• gained more weight than those who did not take statins (JAMA Internal Medicine, published online April 24, 2014). Those who did not take statins did not increase their intake of food or fat over the same 10 year period.

The proportion of patients taking statins increased from 7.5 percent in 1999 to 16.5 percent in 2010. The authors worry that statin use encourages some people to think they do not need to make healthful lifestyle changes. Advertising campaigns by the drug companies deceive people into thinking that statins can prevent and treat heart disease with no effort from the patient. Many people who take drugs to prevent heart attacks are expecting to be protected by pills when they would get better protection by changing their diet, exercising and losing weight. Statin drugs do not correct for eating too much food, fat and sugar, gaining weight or not exercising.

The Study
The authors measured caloric intake from statin users and nonusers from 1999 –2010. Statin users ate 179 kcalories less/day from 1999–2000 compared to nonusers. After 10 years (2009–2010), statin users ate 9.6 percent more calories compared to the previous ten years. Caloric and fat intake did not change significantly for nonusers. Statin users also ate less fat in the 1999–2000 period (71.7 vs. 81.2g/d; P=.003) but ate 14.4 percent more fat 10 years later. They also gained 5 to 11 pounds during that period, far more weight than those who did not take statins.

Statins Increase Diabetes Risk
This study found that the incidence of diabetes increased from 22 per cent of statin users in 1990 to 29 per cent of statin users in 2010. Statins raise blood sugar levels and increase risk for diabetes, the disease that is the strongest risk factor of all for suffering a heart attack. Statins discourage exercise by increasing muscle aches and weakness. The people most likely to suffer muscle aches and weakness from taking statin drugs are those who exercise vigorously.

The Message
In this study, the people most likely to take statin drugs were those who were older, male, white, less educated, diabetic and/or overweight. Perhaps because they are less educated, do not exercise and are already overweight, they chose to take drugs and avoid changing the lifestyle that caused their high cholesterol and increased heart-attack risk in the first place.

The drug companies and doctors are also responsible for the marked increase in drug use and decrease in use of lifestyle changes to prevent heart attacks. Statins are known to increase risk for muscle aches, diabetes, and brain function. Lifestyle changes to help every North American prevent heart attacks include:
• Eat large amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and nuts.
• Restrict sugar-added foods, sugared drinks (except during intense exercise), other refined carbohydrates, red meat and fried foods.
• Try to work up to exercising at least an hour every day.
• Avoid overweight.
• Get blood levels of hydroxy vitamin D above 75 nmol/L.
• Grow muscle.
• Lose excess fat

May 4th, 2014
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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