Attendees at a recent meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Atlanta were privy to some dim news about certain drugs that are used to combat cholesterol. Researchers presented proof that when people stop taking statin drugs after using them over a long period of time (as most do), then they are immediately exposed to two significant heart-health risk factors.
In a study of 566 patients taking “Pravachol,” researchers out of the Netherlands found that people who stopped taking the drugs showed a rapid rise in LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) as well as levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). Both of these substances, when found in high amounts within your blood, are quite dangerous for your heart.
Statin drugs lower both CRP and LDL cholesterol levels, so when you stop taking them, your body faces a withdrawal situation and both of these levels can dramatically rise. This can happen very fast.
The study highlights how dangerous it can be for a person to arbitrarily stop taking statin drugs. After four years of taking Pravachol, patients experienced a 16% drop in their CRP levels and a 27% decrease in LDL cholesterol.
That was presumably what the study was all about — seeing how well this statin drug worked. The surprising news came when the participants stopped taking the drug. Both their CRP and their LDL levels quickly shot up to where they were before they started the statin treatment.
The researchers saw this as a serious warning sign. They are admittedly aware of countless people telling their doctors they feel fine and that they want to stop taking the medication.
“While it might seem like common sense that you would get worse if you do that, many people don’t believe it,” one researcher said. “A study like this shows us the magnitude of how bad things can really get.”
For a change in perspective, here’s what those two substances do inside of your body. LDL cholesterol causes waxy, fatty substances to build up inside your system and this, in turn, threatens your heart. When too much buildup is in the blood, it accumulates within your arteries, coats the walls, and then clogs the blood flow. Doctors use LDL cholesterol levels to determine your risk for heart attacks or stroke.
CRP, which is lesser known, is used as a measurement that shows how inflamed your arteries are. CRP can also predict the possibility of blood clots. It’s a special protein made by the liver only in times of acute inflammation — thus it is believed to be an indicator for your risk of certain inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. In recent years, it has been tied to coronary artery disease.