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Should healthy people take statins?

Tue., Nov. 26, 2013

Q. I am a very healthy woman, not overweight, with total cholesterol around 200. I have no history of heart disease in my family.

In spite of all this, I would be put on statins if my doctor were to follow the new heart guidelines. There is no way I would take statins at this point, not with everything I know about them.

What troubles me is the ever-growing tendency to prescribe more and more medications for Americans. We are responsible for our own health, and we have to educate ourselves about the pros and cons of anything we take.

A. Key to the new guidelines is the “CV Risk Calculator.” This spreadsheet requests answers to nine questions about age, race, gender, cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. Even a healthy person like you, with good numbers and no history of heart disease, could be a candidate for statins depending on age and blood pressure. Some estimate that the new guidelines could double the number of people on such drugs to more than 70 million.

A healthy Mediterranean-style diet and an exercise program could be as effective as statins without the side effects (JAMA Internal Medicine, Oct. 28, 2013). To learn more about the pros and cons of medications and how to control cholesterol, blood pressure and other risk factors without drugs, you may be interested in our book “Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy” (online at

Q. I recently learned through testing that I have borderline low testosterone. My doctor suggested medication, but the possible side effects concern me. Are there natural ways to increase testosterone levels? I am 66 and not overweight. I exercise regularly and take Crestor.

A. Statin-type drugs like Crestor can lower testosterone levels (BMC Medicine, Feb. 28, 2013). You might ask your doctor whether adding medication to counteract this possible side effect is warranted. A new study suggests that testosterone replacement therapy increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes (JAMA, Nov. 6, 2013).


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