A five year Spanish study published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week, shows that a diet of fish, chicken, fruit and vegetables is ‘better than a drug’. In fact the group assigned to the Mediterranean type diet had a 30 per cent lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke over five years.
This should be music to any woman’s ears. Several statin studies have already shown that statins bring no statistically significant reduction in the risk of stroke or overall death in women.
A couple of years ago I had a stroke completely out of the blue whilst sunning myself on holiday in Corfu. It was a scary experience not least because there is only one hospital in Corfu and that did not inspire confidence.
In Greece, doctors don’t talk about cholesterol or statins. They believe that stress is the main cause of stroke. It was only when I set foot in the UK that I was told I should start a statin immediately.
I have been a health journalist long enough to remember when cholesterol was the good guy. I have written countless articles about the wonder of this amazing substance which is essential to every cell in the body. Nevertheless I had just gone through a terrifying event which could potentially have left me paralysed for life, so I had no choice but to take the tablets.
Within days of taking the drugs I had nightmares, muscle cramps and general tiredness. I went back to my GP who joked that quite a few of his patients couldn’t tolerate Simvastatin. Simvastatin is the cheapest statin and so is routinely prescribed as the first line of treatment. I was put on Atorvastatin.
Although the nightmares improved, this time I had dizzy spells and generally felt unwell. The truth is I was downright miserable about being on a drug I felt I really didn’t need.
Trawling the internet I came across Dr Malcolm McKendrick’s book The Great Cholesterol Con http://drmalcolmkendrick.org/about/ where he suggests that the protection provided by statins women is so small as to be not worth bothering about.
McKendrick goes further and points out that lowering cholesterol to below 4, particularly over the age of 50 is actually dangerous. He cites another study in the Lancet in 2001 which showed that ‘in elderly people with low serum cholesterol, low cholesterol concentration actually increases the risk of death.
His book backed up my gut instinct which tells me these drugs are not the miracle workers they claim to be. I see no reason to continue taking a drug which may be doing me harm and according to the latest research has no real benefit. So I have ditched the statins and will now take the advice of the Greek doctors-cut out stress from my life, use more olive oil in my salad and eat more nuts!