by: Dr. Sharon Collins


Patients are usually prescribed statin medications if they have any signs of heart disease. Heart disease is the number killer of Americans, so there are millions of people taking statin drugs today.
Patients are not usually told that they can reverse their cardiovascular problems with lifestyle changes. Why is that? Part of the reason is that most physicians believe that drugs are much more effective in achieving desired end results than lifestyle changes. And most physicians do not trust their patients to stick to the necessary changes necessary to reverse their condition. So they resort to drugs, which they know can predictably decrease total and LDL cholesterol.
Unfortunately, ALL drugs have undesirable side effects and statin drugs are no different; their side effects can be very serious. One of the most notable adverse effects of statin drugs is rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis is a potentially life-threatening syndrome that causes the breakdown of muscle tissue which releases damaging proteins into the blood. These substances can cause many problems, including permanent kidney damage and death.
Most people do well on statin drugs. But a good percentage of people on statins complain of symptoms. The symptoms vary from mild to severe. Physicians usually assume that asymptomatic patients have no problems. But as the video below reveals even those without symptoms are now found to have evidence of muscle breakdown. The most reliable and sensitive test of muscle injury is a blood test called creatine kinase (CK). If the CK result is elevated in the presence of muscle weakness and dark-colored urine, it is taken seriously by physicians. However if the CK is normal even though the patient is symptomatic, the cardiologist will generally dismiss the patient’s concerns. Now we know that a normal CK does not mean there is nothing going on.
One of my patients was diagnosed to have “very significant heart disease” and was placed on a statin medication. Within two weeks of starting the drug, he developed significant muscle weakness whenever he tried to climb stairs. When he told his cardiologist about this, he ordered a blood test to see if there was any evidence of muscle destruction. The test was negative. So the cardiologist concluded that the patient’s problem was most likely due to his heart disease—that he would eventually get better with continued statin treatment. The patient was not as convinced; he stopped the drug himself and noticed that within one week his symptoms resolved. When he went back to his cardiologist and explained to him that he would not be taking the statin drug anymore, his cardiologist dismissed him from his practice. He told the patient, “There is nothing more I can do for you.” He was on his own now; without a cardiologist. That is when he sought my help.
My prescription was for him to change to a whole foods plant-based diet, and to stop drinking alcohol. He told me he was not willing to do that. He asked me if there was anything else he could do. Among other things, I told him that he needed at least to eat half his plate in fruits and vegetables and to cut his alcohol intake in half. But in addition I recommended that he start taking Juice Plus because I wanted to make sure he was eating as many servings of fruits and vegetables as possible. You see, I am well aware of the powerful health impact of fruits and vegetables. The patient agreed to that.
Over the past year, he has clinically improved. His triglycerides, which were almost 2000 mg/dL when I first saw him, are now in the high range of normal. His cholesterol is about 200 mg/dL. And he is enjoying life. He was initially not able to walk more than half a block without having to stop. Now he is able to walk two miles.
Not everyone is willing to make drastic changes in their diet to achieve dramatic results. But taking one step—eating 13+ servings of fruits and vegetables daily and then adding other lifestyle changes can and will improve their health significantly enough to turn things around. Real food is more powerful than we believe and without any of the adverse reactions that drugs have.
I am not saying we should never take drugs for any reason. What I am saying is that making lifestyle changes might cause enough improvement that drugs may not even be needed. And food usually does not have the adverse side effects that drugs do.