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No Evidence New HDL Raising Drugs Help Reduce Risk Of Heart Attack

While health gurus and physicians continue to debate over the real causes of heart disease and cardiovascular health issues, the pharmaceutical industry is plowing ahead with research and development of new drugs.

The latest drugs they’re working on now are designed to raise HDL (high density lipoprotein), also referred to as “good cholesterol.”

And for good reason as numerous studies have shown a correlation of higher risk of heart disease in individuals with low HDL levels. I say that loosely as there seems to be a “correlation,” but low HDL levels haven’t been shown to “cause” heart attack or stroke.

As we should have expected all along, it’s a much more complex issue. Why do some people with higher cholesterol numbers (both LDL and HDL) not always develop heart disease? Why does the guy with accepted “normal” ranges of cholesterol drop dead of a heart attack?

The truth is, regardless of what one camp tries to say, we simply don’t have all the answers yet.

Instead of being upfront about that, the mainstream medical community speculates in their own circles and the pharmaceutical industry naturally follows along seeing the potential for hefty profits to be made with new drugs.

More after the jump…

Before I get into opinion on the bigger picture, let’s look at the HDL connection to heart disease and what’s the latest on the research front.

Recent research has shown that drugs (or even niacin) used to raised HDL levels fails to lower the risk of heart disease in individuals who had low HDL and were also taking statins to lower their LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.

Here’s an article from Science Daily News that expands on this subject and includes references to recent research.

Pfizer abandoned its experimental HDL boosting drug “torcetrapid” and likewise Roche Pharmaceuticals has stopped research on their counterpart “dalcetrapid” after no evidence was found these drugs lowered heart attack risk.

In fact, the Pfizer research was abandoned after early trials with torcetrapid actually showed an increase in heart attack and stroke in users!

But don’t expect this to be the end of the story. There will likely be new attempts in the future, albeit with a different route, as there’s lots of money to be made here and the drug companies know it.

Frank Sacks, a professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at Harvard Medical School believes there are ways perhaps to get the liver to produce more HDL naturally than with the current pathways used by the above mentioned trial drugs. He states “we don’t know much about HDL metabolism in humans.”

Nutrition Action Healthletter July/August 2012

Finally, someone admitting that we really don’t know all the complexities with cholesterol levels in humans and the connection to heart disease.

Let me be perfectly clear about something before I continue. Although I’m suspect of the connection between mainstream medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, I don’t think it’s fair to completely bash the pharmaceutical industry for their role in helping to improve human health.

They often create new drugs that help to treat chronic illness and disease that ultimately improve the quality of life and may serve to extend longevity in some individuals. It’s hard to deny that fact.

The issue I have is with our self-created reliance on pharmaceutical drugs to “prevent” and offset chronic illness and disease.

I’m not all that convinced this is working so hot.

The use of statin drugs for cholesterol is a prime example. Research is now revealing the prolonged use of these drugs may have more downside than upside. Never-the-less, statin drugs are responsible for billions of dollars in revenues and to say this is “big business” is an understatement to say the least.

But step back for a second and simply look at how well these drugs are working to reduce the amount of heart disease in this country. The numbers keep going up and up, but yet we’re to believe pills hold the solution to improving our health.

Something doesn’t jive but yet you won’t hear that many people (like Professor Sacks) stepping forward to confess we really don’t know the true causes of heart disease.

How about this for a hypothesis….heart disease is the result of imbalances in the body caused in large part to some combination of factors which degrade human health.

It may not be that simple to use a paint by numbers approach to determine the exact equation for heart disease, but basic observation tells us that healthy people usually don’t get sick.

Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, manage stress, get sufficient sleep, avoid toxins, and generally just take care of your body. Isn’t that something we can all agree with?

Let the experts argue over saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, omega-6′s, omega-3′s, etc. Every time some panel comes out with research claiming “X” is the problem, there’s research from another group that shows “X” isn’t the problem. It’s enough to make your head spin.

My point in all of this is to make a call for the return of common sense in matters that involve our health and wellness. Your doctors tells you that your triglycerides and cholesterol levels are out of whack, ok now what?

Look for clues on how your body may be out of balance. What’s your diet like? How about exercise, stress, etc? In short, what are (or aren’t) you doing now that you could do a better job of in helping to improve your health?

Start there instead of jumping to the accepted conclusion a pill holds the answer just because a doctor says so. The dirty little secret is that many physicians still receive lavish gifts and luxury vacations on behalf of pharmaceutical drug companies for their part in helping to move “product.”

Now don’t get me wrong, not all doctors are on the “take” and there’s good and bad in any industry. But to ignore the presence and influence of money and greed in the mainstream medicine and pharmaceutical drug company connection would be foolish.

You don’t have to watch a “Dateline Special” on TV to figure this out either. Do you really think that every drug and pill is essential to improving health and there’s no solution outside of this paradigm?

Look, I’m not saying to completely ignore the advice of your physician (that would be foolish), or to take an extreme position that all drugs are bad. Just be open to doing some critical thinking on the big picture and take personal responsibility for your own health.

As a Charleston fitness coach and consultant, one of my primary objectives when working with clients who are on statin drugs, blood pressure medications, etc, is to work on helping them get off the meds.

Not stopping cold turkey or ignoring the advice of their physician. But rather empower them with the belief that a healthy body in balance doesn’t need medication to prevent disease.

Key word here being “prevention,” as we’re not talking about conditions that would necessarily be rectified with lifestyle changes. All the exercise and clean eating wouldn’t fix some forms of genetic thyroid disorders for example. You get the picture.

We’re talking about not accepting the fact that you’ll need to be on cholesterol or blood pressure medications and the like indefinitely.

Until we learn more about the real underlying causes of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, be wary of fixing your sights on a drug to hold the key towards prevention.

And for that matter, be cautious of buying into the claims made my some so called experts, that a particular food or food good (be it natural) is a contributing factor.

A case in point is my discussion from last week on the study that claimed eating eggs could be as bad as cigarette smoking with clogging arteries.

The human body is magnificently designed with God’s infinite wisdom (the way I see it) to adapt to fueling off of the combination of any natural foods. Not all parts of the world have the same access to food groups and people have continued to adapt.

I don’t think it’s a simple to say “X” food is to blame for disease anymore than it is to believe “X” drug will hold the key towards the prevention of said diseases.

The solution for maintaining health and preventing disease, in my opinion, is centered around the idea of BALANCE and caring for the needs and functions of the human body.

What say you?

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. He specializes in helping people achieve a body transformation with burst training exercise and whole food nutrition. You can receive a FREE no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal fitness programs and start experiencing the Shaping Concepts difference today.

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Category: Hormones & Health.