February 1st marked the start of American Heart Month, an annual awareness effort from the American Heart Association to bring attention to cardiovascular disease being our nation’s No. 1 killer. And while it’s important to bring this issue to light, I wonder if there is enough focus on how lifestyle choices impact heart health.
Statin drugs are the most commonly prescribed drugs in medicine. They’re used to treat high cholesterol, as well as reduce heart attack risk in people with heart disease. With the high rates of obesity in this country—a direct result of the Standard American Diet (SAD)—it doesn’t surprise me that this drug is so widely used.
Some controversy surrounds the widespread use of this drug, however. Not long ago, it was suggested that a certain statin drug be prescribed for obese children as young as 8 years old, even though no long-term safety studies on the use of the drug in children have been performed. Later, it was suggested that people with high levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) be prescribed the drug, even if they had normal blood lipid levels. Statins were being touted as the new wonder drug, and it seemed doctors wanted everyone to be on one.
But hold it just a moment. What about looking at diet and lifestyle as a way to reduce cholesterol and heart disease risk? Why is this not a stronger focus? Simple—because they doesn’t make as much money as pharmaceutical drugs. Lifestyle changes just aren’t profitable for the big drug companies.
And now, a study from the National Heart and Lung Institute in London has found that taking a statin drug has the effect of cancelling out the risk of heart attack that comes with eating a cheeseburger and milkshake. What’s more, they actually suggested that a free, over-the-counter statin drug be given out at fast food restaurants for this very purpose.
Seriously? I mean, really. That makes about as much sense as handing out high blood pressure medicine at scary movies.