One burger, a large order of fries, and some free statins. What if you could bypass the doctor and the pharmacist and get your statins directly from your fast-food provider? Talk about cutting out the middle-man.
At least that’s what researchers at Imperial College London have suggested in a recent study, as reported in ScienceDaily. The paper, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, indicates that the effect of a statin is enough to offset the increased risk of heart attack caused by eating a cheeseburger and a milkshake. It turns out that the statin reduces risk to approximately the same degree as fast food increases it.
Naturally, researchers were careful to note that “statins don’t cut out all of the unhealthy effects of burgers and fries. It’s better to avoid fatty food altogether.” They also stressed the need for studies to assess the risks of allowing people to take statins without medical supervision. I would hope so.
About Fast Food
The link between fat intake and blood cholesterol is well documented. Fast food generally contains high amounts of trans fats which, when consumed on a regular basis, contribute to high cholesterol and escalate risk of heart disease. In addition, fast food is loaded with empty calories and little nutritional value.
Even if a statin could offset the cholesterol contained in a fast food meal, it still doesn’t make either the meal or the statin a good choice. What we eat matters!
Despite the bad press, cholesterol isn’t all bad.
LDL cholesterol is the bad kind. Too much of it increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. The body produces LDL naturally — how much is a matter of genetic predisposition, but consuming too much saturated fat, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol increases what you already have. An LDL cholesterol reading of less than 100 is optimal.
HDL cholesterol is the good kind. It helps to keep LDL cholesterol from spiraling out of control. HDL protects against heart attack and stroke. When it comes down to the numbers, higher levels of HDL are desired. Low levels — less than 40 mg. for men and less than 50 mg. for women — indicates higher risk of heart health problems.
One way to keep cholesterol levels in check is through lifestyle — no smoking; healthy diet low in fat, cholesterol, and salt; and frequent exercise.
For more information about cholesterol, visit the American Heart Association.
Statins are marketed under many different names and are prescribed to reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood, thereby lowering risk of heart attack. They work by blocking a substance your body needs to make cholesterol, and may also reabsorb built up cholesterol.
Researchers believe there are other health benefits to statins, including treatment for other disease unrelated to heart health. For people with a genetic pre-disposition to poor cholesterol readings, statins have been shown to have a positive impact.
The Mayo Clinic lists the potential side effects of statins as muscle and joint aches, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and even liver damage, also cautioning that once you take a statin, you will most likely take it for life.
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