Your Health: Statins raise a little-known risk factor for heart disease
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Your Health: Statins raise a little-known risk factor for heart disease

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Graedons

Joe Graedon and Dr. Teresa Graedon

Question: I inherited very high levels of Lp(a), and I have known for years there is little I can do to reduce it. I tried niacin, but I can’t tolerate it.

I grew up in Germany, where doctors test for this routinely. In the U.S., I have had difficulty getting it tested.

My cholesterol is around 220, with HDL over 60. Since my LDL is high (around 140), I am now on Crestor.

My doctor said lowering my LDL is vital, because it will also lower the Lp(a). Is that true? I have read a lot about this problem over the years to educate myself. Everything I read says there are no medications to date that lower Lp(a).

I am 69 years old and worked hard for years following a healthy diet so as NOT to take a statin. (I ate tons of oat bran.) The more I read about high Lp(a), the more scared I got. My mother had a stroke. Can a statin drug like the Crestor I now take really lower Lp(a)?

Answer: Lp(a) is short for lipoprotein(a), a particle in the blood that contains fat, protein and cholesterol. In the U.S., cardiologists have focused primarily on LDL cholesterol as a bad actor in the development of heart disease. Statins are very effective at lowering LDL.

On the other hand, Lp(a) is also an important risk factor for heart disease. High Lp(a) levels can contribute to calcification of aortic valves (Biomolecules, December 2019).

Surprisingly, statins may actually raise levels of Lp(a) (European Heart Journal, May 20, 2019). A meta-analysis of statin trials found that even when LDL cholesterol levels are lowered, people run a substantially higher risk of heart disease if statins raise their Lp(a) above 50 mg/dl (Lancet, Oct. 13, 2018).

Don’t give up on exercise and diet just because you are taking rosuvastatin (Crestor). You may also want to ask your doctor about an alternate treatment for lowering LDL cholesterol. Evolocumab (Repatha) reduces both LDL and Lp(a) and in your case may be helpful against heart disease (Circulation, March 19, 2019).

•••

Question: After years of treatment by a dermatologist for persistent acne, my daughter went to a naturopath who advised her to stop consuming dairy products. Within a few weeks, her skin was perfect.

Answer: For decades, dermatologists maintained that diet didn’t matter with regards to acne. They preferred to treat pimples with antibiotics because they produced predictably positive results.

Now, however, many doctors are trying to limit the use of antibiotic pills for this condition (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, February 2019). There is growing recognition that long-term use of antibiotics can alter the bacterial balance (microbiome) of the body.

Scientists have found that your daughter’s experience is not unusual. A diet rich in dairy products appears to make young people more susceptible to acne (Nutrients, Aug. 9, 2018). Avoiding milk as well as food with a high glycemic index can be helpful.

To learn more about the anti-acne diet as well as home remedies and pharmaceuticals for clear skin, you may wish to consult our eGuide to Acne Solutions. This online resource may be found in the Health eGuides section at PeoplesPharmacy.com.

•••

Question: I am extremely susceptible to chigger bites. I have been spending a lot more time in my yard this spring and want to share my preventive strategy with your readers.

I tuck my pants legs into my socks and spray my shoes and socks with DEET insect repellent. I tuck my long-sleeved shirt into my gloves and spray up to my elbows.

As soon as I go inside, I throw my clothes into the laundry and wash with hot water and immediately take a hot, soapy shower. If I get a bite anyway, I quickly apply a strong anti-itch steroid gel my dermatologist prescribed. It helps prevent blistering.

Answer: Thanks for the tips. They all make sense.

Other readers recommend dusting shoes and socks with “flowers of sulfur.” This sulfur powder is available in hardware stores, some pharmacies and online.

One woman shared this story: “When I was a young woman and took my girls to Girl Scout camp, I would use yellow sulfur powder in a sock, and dust the girls and my shoes and pants legs after dressing. We were in the woods. The sulfur kept the chiggers away.”

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist; Dr. Teresa Graedon is a medical anthropologist and nutrition expert. Questions for the Graedons can be sent to them using their website, www.peoplespharmacy.com, or by writing to the following address: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803.

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