Supplements to Take with Statins

February 12, 2016 (Updated: February 17, 2016)
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

The drugs known as statins—the most widely prescribed drugs in the US—stake their claim to fame on their ability to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.

That’s the kind that gunks up your arteries and increases your risk of congestive heart failure and heart attack, among other bad situations.

Lowered LDL is a good outcome for many people. But statins aren’t a good way to get it.

When the warnings on the label include “a heightened risk of type 2 diabetes and elevated blood sugar levels,” you’re looking at a claim to infamy, not fame. That’s deadly serious stuff.

Nevertheless, millions of people remain on statins. Even though they are also linked to:

  • Tripled risk of artery calcification, making heart disease more dangerous, not less
  • Depletion of essential nutrients, including vital coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Muscle pain that can become lethal
  • Liver dysfunction and acute kidney failure
  • Cataracts
  • Serious memory problems, including a condition that can eliminate nearly all memory for days

Essential fatty acids to the rescue

Don’t try to say eicosapentaenoic acid. Say “EPA.”

EPA and DHA, the two most common omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs), are the go-to best health protectors of all. They’re called “essential” for good reasons.

Pick a problem:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Elevated triglycerides
  • Heart attack, abnormal heartbeat, and stroke
  • Hardening of the arteries
  • High blood pressure

EPA and DHA, working together, can help prevent them, reduce their severity, or even reverse some of them.

“On statins” belongs on the list of problems above.

If you’re still on statins, you must pay attention.

A recent study of coronary heart disease (CHD) patients on high-dose statin therapy found that adding EPA to their regimen “significantly reduced” the amount of coronary plaque in their cardiovascular systems, a major advance in reducing the risk of future CHD incidents.

That’s wonderful, but it doesn’t get statins off the hook. You need some additional tactics that make your statins less threatening.

Why should you take CoQ10?

Statins inhibit production of both LDL cholesterol and coenzyme CoQ10 in your liver.

Lower LDL? OK, but with serious caveats.

Lower CoQ10? A recipe for disaster.

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Chronic Inflammation Decoded

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is caused by anything that weakens the heart or makes it harder to do its job.

So hardened or plaque-clogged arteries, or a previous heart attack, or high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid or kidney disease all can lead to CHF.

CoQ10 is produced by, required by, and used by every cell in our bodies. It’s ubiquitous—hence its trade name, “ubiquinone.”

Its primary role: instruct our mitochondria to convert nutrients into the fuel that powers everything we do.

Add to this that CoQ10 is also a powerful antioxidant. When it goes down, so does much of your immune system.

What?

From my point of view, if a doctor doesn’t insist that their statin patients take supplemental CoQ10—it’s sheer foolishness.

I tell my statin patients to take at least 200 mg of CoQ10 supplements daily, 100 mg in the morning, 100 mg at night. Importantly, CoQ10 can be taken in addition to most cardiovascular medications.

An ancient natural protector more potent than vitamin E

Why do we keep inventing unnatural chemical stews when nature gives us a buffet banquet of health-keepers?

For example, an antioxidant blast from the past—silymarin, from the milk thistle plant.

Recommended by genius Greek physician Pliny for “carrying off bile,” silymarin is a mega-antioxidant, said to be at least ten times more potent than vitamin E.

Silymarin does just what doctors (Pliny and I) order—urgently—for statin patients:

  • Regenerates liver cells damaged by alcohol or drugs, e.g., statins
  • Decongests the liver by stimulating bile flow, reducing stagnation, and preventing gallstone and bile-induced liver damage

I insistently recommend three doses of 175/mg per day.

But let your doctor recommend, based on your individual case.

And finally, go fish

I’m wary of almost every fish in the water, thanks to pollutants, contaminants, and unhealthy fish farming. But two servings of wild salmon or a similar oily fish per week, or 2–4 daily grams of ultra-refined, contaminant-free omega-3 rich oil will give you plenty of omega-3’s superior nutrition and protection.

References

  • Sohet, Florence M., Audrey M. Neyrinck, Barbara D. Pachikian, Fabienne C. De Backer, Laure B. Bindels, Petra Niklowitz, Thomas Menke, Patrice D. Cani, and Nathalie M. Delzenne. “Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation Lowers Hepatic Oxidative Stress and Inflammation Associated with Diet-induced Obesity in Mice.” Biochemical Pharmacology 78, no. 11 (2009): 1391-400.
  • Silymarin: A Potent Antioxidant, Liver Protector, and Anti-Cancer Agent http://www.smart-publications.com/articles/silymarin-a-potent-antioxidant-liver-protector-and-anti-cancer-agent
  • Awang D. Milk thistle. Can Pharm J1993; 422, 403-404. 
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  • Wagner H. Antihepatotoxic flavonoids. Plant Flavonoids in Biology and medicine: Biochemical, Pharmacological, and Structure-Activity Relationships. 1986; Alan R. Liss, New York, pp. 545-558.
  • Adzet T. Polyphenolic compounds with biological and pharmacological activity. Herbs Spices Med Plants1986;1,167-184.
  • Drugs and Supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, alpha-linolenic acid http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/background/hrb-20059372
  • EPA Therapy Added to Statin Therapy Showed Coronary Plaque Regression at Approximately Twice the Prevalence Compared to Statin Therapy Alone in Japanese Clinical Study http://thestockmarketwatch.com/news/read.aspx/epa-therapy-added-to-statin-therapy-showed-coronary-plaque-regression-at-approximately-twice-the-prevalence-compared-to-statin-therapy-alone-in-japanese-clinical-study/a6c4f7ee8b2b70da45b3ee83e2c14e59/
  • Presser, Arthur. Pharmacist’s Guide to Medicinal Herbs. Smart Publications, Petaluma, CA, 2000.pp 259-260.
  • Wagner, H., et al. The Chemistry of Silymarin (Silybin), the Active Principle of the Fruits of Silybum marianum. Arzneim-Forsch Drug Res. 1968; 18:688-96.

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