Monday, July 09, 2007

I Don't Need No Stinkin' Statins!

I had my latest endo visit last week.

For the last couple of visits, my endo has been concerned about my LDL levels (the "bad" cholesterol). It was at 111 last time, and he said it should be under 100. Anything over 100 and they start pushing statins. And so, he started pushing statins.

Statins are, it seems, the latest wonder drug in the arsenal against heart disease, and since diabetics are, in general, at high risk for heart disease, it only seems natural to push the drug. And while I'm not really against the use of drugs such as statins, I'm concerned when doctors start turning to drugs before really analyzing dietary and activity-related causes. Elevated LDL levels may simply be a result of genetics. But it can also be a symptom. Turning to statins so quickly really only treats the symptoms and ignores the cause.

I knew the cause, in my case. My diet had gone downhill. While a generally healthy guy, I had allowed too many slices of pizza and breakfast burritos to slip into my diet. This, in addition to my rather sedentary lifestyle led to a rather sudden rise in LDL levels. I'd never had problems with LDLs before.

Ultimately, I declined the statins. I couldn't see going on a drug for something when I knew the cause. And, many months later of going back to healthier eating (eliminating saturated and trans fats from my diet as much as possible, increasing my intake of fiber-rich foods), and an exercise regimen, I wanted to tackle the problem the old-fashioned way.

Results are in. My 111 has dropped to 66. My HDLs have risen. I felt a bit like gloating. I wanted to say to my endo, "I don't need no stinkin' statins!"

That isn't to say statins aren't necessary at times. If someone truly can't get LDL levels down by improving diet and exercise, then it makes sense. My concern is that there really is little attempt at educating a patient in what that proper diet and exercise entails. Adding a bowl of oatmeal a day isn't going to do a whole lot if you're still eating that daily slice of pizza for lunch, for example.

Fortunately, I'm a self-motivated kind of guy when it comes to my health, and so I saw the problem and took back the reigns. Others may simply take the statin, but continue eating an unhealthy diet.

I've got one life to live, and I don't need to live it tied for the rest of my life to yet another drug. Insulin is quite enough, thank you very much.


Megan said...

That's awesome! Good for you! And I once had a professor say it was impossibly to get under 100 without statins. You sure took the bull by the horns.

Scott K. Johnson said...

Way to go man!