Statins ( Crestor, Lipitor, Zocor, Pravachol, Mevacor, Lescol) are cholesterol lowering drugs that are widely prescribed in the US for stroke and heart attack prevention. A double blind placebo controlled study found that taking high doses of Crestor reduced your risk of a heart attack occurring by 1 percent. More precisely out of 120 individuals taking Crestor every day for two years one will be protected from a cardiovascular incident. Typical side effects include abdominal pain, muscle pain, serious muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis), renal disorders,impotence and liver disorders. There is an increased incidence of diabetes, depression, memory loss, accidents and suicide among statin users. Nonetheless overall statin sales in the US are 14.5 billion. (Interestingly enough they are losing their place at the top of the pharmaceutical sales chart to antipsychotic schizophrenia drugs such as Seroquel and Abilify but that is another blog piece :-))
One percent reduction of heart attack risk compared to a long list of very serious and also potentially lethal side effects does not sound very encouraging. Yet statins are some of the most widely prescribed drugs in the US and most patients are absolutely convinced that the lower their cholesterol the healthier they are. Cholesterol is one of the most important biochemicals in our bodies, especially for proper hormonal and central nervous system functioning. Very few understand that cholesterol is the precursor of all the body’s hormones, which means that you need cholesterol to make testosterone and estrogen. The brain also needs cholesterol to function properly. In one study it was found individuals with the lowest cholesterol scores were 80 percent more likely to perform poorly on a variety of cognitive tests. Researchers have also found that the men with rock-bottom cholesterol levels were twice as likely as those with higher ranges to commit suicide. They may also be more likely to hurt someone else. So using statins to lower your heart attack risk can have some unintended consequences.
However there are other shown scientific interventions that can greatly reduce your probability of having a heart attack, as well as lower your blood pressure. They even show a significant ability to reduce depression. Clearly these new agents will become the next pharmaceutical blockbuster. Unfortunately not. These striking agents of health improvement are CATS. Yes cats! Owning a cat has been shown to reduce your chance of having a heart attack by 40 percent. Researchers recently found that over a twenty year period those who had never owned a cat had a 40 percent greater risk of death due to heart attack and a thirty percent greater risk of death due to any sort of cardiovascular disease. No such protective effect was found for dog owners. Clearly owning a cat beats the 1 percent reduction of risk by Crestor. Other studies have shown that either a cat or dog will lower blood pressure spikes and pulse rates better than ACE inhibiting drugs. And men with AIDS who owned a pet were three times less likely to report symptoms of depression.
So as the year winds down and one’s thoughts turn to making New Year’s Resolutions to improve health, perhaps you might think about adopting a cat. Now we haven’t addressed the side effects of owning a cat but perhaps some of our readers, especially the one’s who own dogs, can come up with a list. But please remember, however, that while statins are FDA approved cats are not. So own at your own risk!
Have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.
All our best,
Dr. Mary and Alex