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Statins Prevent Exercise Benefits?

Statins, drugs used to lower cholesterol and help to prevent heart attacks, prevented exercise benefits in overweight and sedentary men and women. Participants had abdominal obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and had not exercised in the previous year (The Journal of the American College of Cardiology, published online May 22, 2013). They followed a supervised 12-week exercise program, of five times a week of walking or jogging on a treadmill for 45 minutes at a moderate pace of 65 to 70 percent of their individual aerobic maximum. Half of the group also took a daily 40-milligram dose of the statin drug, Zocor (simvastatin).

Exercise at Least as Beneficial as Statins in Preventing Heart Attacks Statins reduce heart attack risk by 10 to 20 percent for every drop of 40 mg/dL in LDL levels. Regular exercise can reduce your chances of dying from a heart attack by as much as 50 percent. Other studies show that exercise also helps to prevent cancers, strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, obesity and premature death.

How Statins Prevented Exercise Benefits

• Researchers measure fitness by a test called VO2max, the maximum amount of oxygen you can take in and use/body weight with vigorous exercise. As fitness levels increase, so does VO2max. In this study, exercise increased VO2max by 10 percent. However, for those who also took statins, exercise increased VO2max by only 1.5 percent. Some statin takers had their VO2max lowered by statins.

• Markers of mitochondrial function increased by 13 percent in those who exercised only. Those who also took statins lost 4.5 percent of mitochondrial function. Mitochondria are the principal source of energy for your muscles when you exercise. Defective mitochondria may well be the cause of cancer. Everything that increases mitochondrial function, size and number has also been shown to help to prevent or treat cancer.

• Those who only exercised lost more weight. The exercise-only group lost 1.7 percent of their body weight, compared to a gain of weight in those who took statins.

Other Data on Harmful Effects of Statins in Exercisers

Statins caused marathon runners to develop higher levels of muscle enzymes in their bloodstreams, signifying greater muscle damage. Statins cause muscle aches in many people who exercise, and those who exercise the most intensely are the ones most likely to suffer muscle pains from statins.

Statins Are Still Necessary for Some People

Statins have been shown to help lower the bad LDL cholesterol and help to prevent heart attacks. Most doctors recommend that you get your bad LDL cholesterol below 100 mg/dL (below 2.6 mmol/L if you live in Canada or Europe). If you are at high risk for heart disease, LDL should be below 70 mg/dL (below 1.8 mmol/L if you live in Canada or Europe).

My Recommendations

Low levels of fitness are a major risk factor for heart attacks and premature death. I think that anyone who is not a regular exerciser and wants to take statins should first check with his or her doctor and start a supervised exercise program, and probably should lose weight.


 

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Pollution Increases Heart Attack, Diabetes Risk

Both fine-particle air pollution and noise pollution increase a person's risk of developing a heart attack (Presented at American Thoracic Society, May 20, 2013). People who live near highways have thicker calcium plaques (arteriosclerosis) in their arteries.

Long-term exposure to air pollution is associated with atherosclerosis independent of traffic noise (Presented at EuroPRevent April 18, 2013 Poster presentation P307). Extensive data show that air pollution increases risk for heart attacks and cancers. Breathing auto emissions turns your good HDL cholesterol into a harmful cholesterol that acts like an oxidant to cause plaques to form and block arteries, to increase heart attack risk (Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, June, 2013). The good HDL cholesterol loses its ability to protect against oxidation and inflammation caused by the bad LDL cholesterol. After two weeks of exposure to vehicle emissions, one week of breathing clean filtered air did not reverse the damage.

Polluted Air is Full of Harmful Chemicals

French investigators found that all main air pollutants (carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), and particulate matter) were significantly associated with an increased risk of heart attacks (Presented at EuroPRevent April 18, 2013).

Air Pollution Increases Risk for Diabetes

Growing up in air pollution increases risk for insulin resistance and diabetes in children, and lower birthweight and shorter height (Diabetologia, May 9, 2013). Most air pollutants are potent oxidants that cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance increased for every increase in nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter or proximity to the nearest major road.


 

Best to Eat Just Before or After Exercise

Two recent major articles show that the most healthful time to eat is just before or after you exercise. When you eat sugar, it is used for energy and a small amount is stored in your muscles and liver. All the rest is turned into a fat called triglycerides that make you fat, form plaques in your arteries, and block insulin receptors which can cause diabetes. One study shows that exercise prevents the rise in triglycerides that follows eating sugar (Diabetes, May 14, 2013). The second study shows that exercising after eating sugar prevents the expected sharp rise in blood sugar levels, and the high rise in insulin that constricts arteries to cause heart attacks (J Atheroscler Thromb, April 19, 2013).

How Exercise Protects You

Every cell in your body is like a balloon full of fluid. A high rise in blood sugar after eating causes sugar to stick to the outer surface membranes of cells. Once there, sugar can not get off the cell. It is eventually converted to sorbitol that destroys the cell to cause every known side effect of diabetes: heart attacks, strokes, blindness, deafness, dementia, impotence, loss of feeling and so forth. Many North Americans suffer very high rises in blood sugar even though they have never been diagnosed as being diabetic.

Resting muscles draw almost no sugar from the bloodstream and require insulin to draw any sugar from the bloodstream. Contracting muscles draw sugar from the bloodstream without even needing insulin. The harder you exercise, the more sugar muscles pull out of the bloodstream. This effect is maximal during intense exercise, diminishes rapidly one hour after you finish exercising and disappears completely around 17 hours after you finish exercising. If you eat before you exercise or within an hour after you finish exercising, your muscles are far more sensitive to insulin and can draw sugar far more rapidly from the bloodstream.

Exercising After Eating Rarely Causes Stomach Cramps

Exercising after eating may cause stomach cramps, but only if you are out-of-shape or eat too much. Exercise causes your heart to pump a huge amount of blood to your muscles. Putting food in your stomach causes your stomach muscles to contract vigorously which increases blood flow to your stomach.

Fit people have hearts that can easily pump large amounts of blood simultaneously to both the stomach and skeletal muscles. Long distance bicycle racers, runners, and cross country skiers eat very large amounts of food during races and virtually never suffer belly cramps. Certainly these athletes often have training runs that last many hours and they have to eat just to keep up their blood sugar levels during training. Otherwise they would pass out from having low blood sugar that will not supply enough sugar for their brains to function.


This week's medical history:
Horace Fletcher, the Great Masticator

For a complete list of my medical history biographies go to Histories and Mysteries


 

Recipe of the Week:

Jollof Rice

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book
- it's FREE

May 26th, 2013
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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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