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People’s Pharmacy: CPAP for sleep apnea lowered cholesterol

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 15, 2021

By Joe Graedon, M.S.,</p><p>and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. KING FEATURES SYNDICATE

Q. My doctors have been urging me for years to take cholesterol-lowering drugs. I have not taken them because I did not want to risk their adverse side effects.

Last year, my cholesterol levels improved dramatically without drugs or diet change. That was despite reduced physical activity.

In November 2019, my total cholesterol was 224 and my LDL was 165. About one year later in October 2020, I had total cholesterol of 198 and LDL of 117.

The only life change I made was to begin using a CPAP machine. Before the CPAP use, I was averaging 30+ sleep apnea events per hour during the night.

The CPAP significantly reduced the events per hour. For the past year, I have averaged less than two events per hour.

In a search of the internet, I found a European study that linked sleep apnea events to cholesterol levels. Have you seen research supporting the proposition that reducing sleep apnea events can reduce cholesterol levels?

A. To our surprise, we were able to find a longitudinal pilot study that showed CPAP users had lower total cholesterol and LDL levels for as long as five years, which is as long as the study lasted (Journal of Sleep Research, April 2020).

CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. The device pushes air into the throat and lungs to prevent the intermittent breath stoppage characteristic of sleep apnea.

Q. I am desperate. I’ve taken Synthroid for hypothyroidism for 21 years. For the past 10 years, the dose has been 100 mcg. Last year, my bloodwork showed my T3 level was too high. My doctor put me on 75 mcg.

On that dosage, I gained 20 pounds in three months, I was depressed, my skin was dry, I lost a lot of my hair, and I felt cold all the time. I got my levels rechecked in July, and my T3 was too low, so my doctor put me back on 100 mcg.

A few months later, another recheck showed my levels were too high. That surprised me because I still felt awful. I was expecting the doctor to tell me that I needed a higher dose.

I am now on 88 mcg, but I feel terrible. When my levels were checked again, I heard that they were perfect. I asked the doctor why I can’t lose the 20 pounds I gained. She told me that I should exercise more. I exercise every day, and I don’t eat a lot.

A thyroid specialist I saw told me that I should expect to gain weight because I am 50. I asked about taking the natural pill Armour, and he told me no. So did my primary doctor.

I told both doctors that I’m cold when it is 96 degrees out, I can’t lose weight, my skin is dry, I’m tired all the time, I have no energy and I’m sad a lot. Neither doctor is listening to me.

All I want is for them to say, “Let’s get to the bottom of this.” But they both are stumped. I absolutley hate feeling this way. What else can I do?

A. Your symptoms are classic for hypothyroidism. Some people can have normal blood tests and still not feel well. You need another opinion from a thyroid expert with a better understanding of the most recent research.

In our eGuide to Thyroid Hormones, we describe research showing that some people don’t convert T4 to T3 efficiently. Such individuals often do better on a combination product or desiccated thyroid extract.

This online resource may be found under the Health eGuides tab at peoplespharmacy.com. Losing weight when your thyroid is not functioning properly is challenging, and exercise often alone won’t solve such a problem.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website peoplespharmacy.com.

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