Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Looking after Your Heart without Statins ; October Is Cholesterol Awareness Month So Here MICHELE O'CONNOR Explores the Latest on Statins

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Looking after Your Heart without Statins ; October Is Cholesterol Awareness Month So Here MICHELE O'CONNOR Explores the Latest on Statins

Article excerpt

THEY have been hailed as a 'superdrug' since they appeared in the late 1980s, but it's only in the last decade statins have polarised medical opinion.

Seven million Brits are currently taking them but, contrary to popular belief, the decision to prescribe them is not just about lowering cholesterol.

Doctors look at a combination of factors, including family history, weight, blood pressure and lifestyle, as well as your cholesterol readings, to calculate your risk of a cardiovascular 'event' - a heart attack or stroke - within the next 10 years.

Though statins were originally targeted at people with a 30% risk of this happening, guidelines have since been changed twice. Now NICE advises anyone with a 10% risk within the next 10 years should be offered them.

While statins are 'superdrugs' to some medics, many experts insist their benefits have been overstated, while others cite debilitating side effects, including muscle pain, fatigue and memory loss.

"There is a grey area between 10-20% of cardiovascular disease risk - and, in fact, most men aged 60 will have a risk close to the guidelines of 10%," explains Dr Bob Cramb, head of charity Heart UK. "So discuss statins with your GP".

All drugs have side effects and they don't necessarily help everybody, he adds. "You have to do your bit too." That means looking at your diet.

The current health advice is to reduce saturated fat intake: "The data is clear from diet studies that if you reduce the saturated fat you eat, you lower your risk of heart disease," says Dr Cramb. But, he does add that it's not practical - or necessary - to try and cut out all saturated fat.

Again, others disagree, including Zoe Harcombe, one of the authors of a paper in The BMJ earlier this year. It showed that reducing saturated fat and/or total fat in the diet had no impact on heart deaths or total deaths. It also showed lowering cholesterol had no impact on these either.

"The biggest error we have made in the history of dietary advice is to demonise fat," says Zoe. "Fat is essential for every cell in the body - we would die without it.

"Natural fat (saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, olives and avocados is vital.

"We should avoid man-made trans fats and processed foods, ones where natural fats have often been replaced with nutritionally void sugar and sweeteners, if we care about our weight and health," says Zoe.

So with heart health, what do the experts agree on? EXPERT OPINION EAT A MEDITERRANEAN DIET: A study of 7,500 people over 55 at high risk of heart disease revealed this diet (olive oil, fish, fruit and veg, nuts and red wine in moderation) was better than a low-fat diet to reduce heart attacks and strokes.

DITCH SUGAR: Experts also agree refined sugar is a major problem - particularly carbonated soft drinks. …

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