Research Shows Broader Benefits of Statins—But What About Alternatives?
Cholesterol has gotten a bad rap—for clogging arteries, fueling heart disease, even impacting brain function. With heart disease a top killer, we absolutely need to control the risk factors—and this includes unhealthy cholesterol and the ongoing inflammation it can fuel.
New research adds urgency to these efforts, suggesting that elevated cholesterol can also be a risk factor in COVID. One new study shows that statins, a widely used cholesterol-lowering drug, may offer protection against COVID-19 severity. These findings add to the data showing how inflammatory conditions including cardiovascular disease, increase the risks of life-threatening complications—like the cytokine storm—that frequently occur in COVID-19 cases.
Statin Side Effects
While statins may offer important benefits, like controlling cholesterol and lowering inflammation, they also come with a number of side effects. In my practice, patients often come to me for alternative recommendations after their primary doctor prescribed a statin to lower cholesterol. These patients are in a bind. They need to get their cholesterol levels down, but they don’t want a drug with possible side effects—the common one being their adverse effects on muscle function, from muscle damage after exercising, to rare, life-threatening muscle damage called rhabdomyolysis. Statins have also been shown to damage the liver, cause digestive problems and memory loss, and fuel metabolic problems, leading to type 2 diabetes.
Oxidized Cholesterol: The Real Enemy
I rarely, if ever, recommend statins to my patients. In my experience, there are much safer and more effective integrative options that lower the risks of heart disease and related issues.
Before we explore these alternatives, however, let’s take a look at cholesterol’s roles in the body. We actually do need it for hormone production, brain health and more. But it all depends on what type of cholesterol—and what we’re finding is that it’s the oxidized cholesterol and specifically subclasses of lipids and lipoproteins such as Lipoprotein (a), which are the real problem.
Oxidized cholesterol is created when LDL (bad) cholesterol mixes with inflammatory compounds, harmful free radicals, and toxins in the circulation. These oxidative stress compounds actually turn the cholesterol “rancid” leading to increased inflammation, arterial plaque, and atherosclerosis.
However, with the right strategies, you can control unhealthy cholesterol, improve cardiovascular function, and protect your long-term health.
The Role of Blood Filtration in Heart Health—and Beyond
Unfortunately, the people who may need statins the most—especially those with a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol—often don’t respond to statin drugs.
These patients may require a life-saving clinical treatment called LDL apheresis. During apheresis, about 3-4 liters of blood are drawn from the patient over several hours, and separated into blood cells and plasma. The plasma is passed through a special filter that removes LDL, oxidized LDL, and other degenerative, pro-inflammatory compounds that fuel cardiovascular disease, and other degenerative conditions—including cancer. The cleaned plasma and blood are returned back to the patient.
In my practice at Amitabha Medical Clinic, we’ve pioneered the use of apheresis for a number of inflammatory, degenerative conditions beyond high cholesterol—such as chronic kidney disease and chronic heart disease among others—and have seen remarkable results.
Apheresis can offer benefits not just for cardiovascular patients, but also for those with cancer, infections, and other inflammatory conditions. Used alone, or combined with other regenerative therapies, apheresis blood filtration can be a powerful, life-changing therapy for patients who previously had few, if any, options.
Natural Heart Health Solutions
For heart health in particular, it’s the chronic inflammation combined with high LDL cholesterol that’s so dangerous. In my practice, there are a handful of researched natural solutions I recommend that effectively control inflammation and protect cardiovascular function, support circulation, and help balance cholesterol, among other important benefits.
One excellent supplement is CoQ10—an antioxidant that supports cellular energy production. One study found that CoQ10 both decreases inflammatory markers and increases the activity of other antioxidants, such as vitamin E.
Another extensively researched anti-inflammatory formula, is a classical Tibetan Herbal Formula backed by more than 30 years of published clinical studies. This time-honored blend contains potent antioxidant-rich botanicals, and is shown to reduce inflammation, support circulatory and cardiovascular health, and promote healthy immunity, in addition to a number of other protective benefits.
Controlling Galectin-3 in Heart Health and Beyond
One of the most dangerous proteins involved in chronic inflammation and heart disease, is an “alarm protein” called galectin-3. Thousands of studies show how galectin-3 fuels inflammation, fibrosis (uncontrolled scar tissue build-up), congestive heart failure, cancer, and other degenerative conditions. As an upstream “alarm protein”, galectin-3 drives the cytokine signaling cascade, fueling out-of-control inflammation and fibrosis that hardens organs and tissues—with serious life-threatening consequences.
One study showed that galectin-3 promotes vascular fibrosis, a driving force behind arterial blockages and hardened arteries. Importantly, the study also showed that inhibiting galectin-3 using researched Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP) can control the formation of plaque in arteries. This study also highlights the importance of controlling inflammation in order to reduce plaque buildup in your cardiovascular system.
Currently, this form of MCP is the only available agent shown to block and even reverse the harmful effects of unhealthy galectin-3—in heart disease, as well as kidney and liver disease, cancer and many other conditions.
It’s important to remember that cardiovascular health involves more than controlling cholesterol. By designing a program around a healthy diet, regular exercise, healthy stress relief, and research-based anti-inflammatory interventions, we can support long-term cardiovascular function and optimize wellness and vitality in the process.