Cholesterol and statins

People should NOT be afraid of the truth!

Disinformation campaigns have been spreading unfounded ideas about statins that are putting people’s lives at risk.

Doctors do not prescribe statins to please the pharmaceutical industry! Statins are prescribed to treat high cholesterol in the blood, preventing the dangers of cardiovascular diseases.


Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is found in the fats (lipids) in the blood. While your body needs cholesterol to continue building healthy cells, having high cholesterol can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

As a whole, cardiovascular diseases are the principal cause of mortality and morbidity in the world. Even with the extraordinary advances science has been offering humanity, around four million people die annually due to this group of diseases, representing half of the total deaths per year.

Scientific advances have been responsible for the increased life expectancy in several countries. About 80% of this improvement is due to the identification of the risk factors and the capacity to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases.

Risk factors

Factors that may increase the risk of high cholesterol include poor diet, obesity, large waist circumference, lack of exercise, smoking, diabetes.

High Cholesterol

High cholesterol has no symptoms. A blood test is the only way to detect high cholesterol. A family history of high cholesterol, heart disease or other risk factors, such as smoking, diabetes or high blood pressure demands more frequent measurements.

When a person has high cholesterol, fatty deposits may develop in the blood vessels. Eventually, these deposits make it difficult for enough blood to flow through the arteries and the heart may not get as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs, which increases the risk of a heart attack. Decreased blood flow to the brain can cause a stroke.

High cholesterol can be inherited, but it is often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, and thus is preventable and treatable. A healthy diet, regular exercise with the help of medication, can help a lot towards reducing high cholesterol.


Elevated levels of fat in the blood have been clearly identified as a very relevant risk factor, so the capacity to control these values with a group of medicines, the statins, is of extreme relevance.

Why should people be listening to biased campaigns against statins?

It is considered nowadays by the medical community that, following antibiotics, statins were the most important group of medicines to contribute to the increased life span expectancy of the general population.

Several studies have proved that the use of statins reduces in a drastic way the risk of the so called major vascular events which include acute coronary insufficiency needing intervention, myocardial infarction and stroke.

The use of a statin for five years in 10.000 people with documented vascular disease would prevent major events in 1.000.

A reduction of 40mg/dl of the value of LDL, the bad cholesterol, in each year the medication is taken, reduces the risk of major events in 25%.

The effect accumulates for each year that the patient will go on taking the medication.

Side effects

Statins, like any other medication, can have side effects.

The most relevant, occurring in five of each 10.000 patients following treatment, are muscle pains but without muscle lesions. Stopping the medication is usually enough to rapidly stop the symptoms. The treatment can be followed with a different type of medication to be decided by the doctor.

The scientific evidence

Dr Fausto Pinto, Cardiologist, Professor and Director at the Medical Faculty at the University of Lisbon, and President of the European Society of Cardiology, wrote a very interesting article on this subject that has been the inspiration and scientific support for this article.

He says that the World Cardiology Societies have taken a very clear position, objectively expressed in the international guidelines they wrote, including very precise recommendations on how to effectively treat this major public health problem.

The Professor states there is clear evidence that the suspension of patient’s treatment with statins significantly increases the number of events that they will suffer, and people will die due to the silly reason of listening to non-scientifically based opinions.

He finishes saying that the world medical community has no doubts about the relevance that the extraordinary progress of the use of statins has made in the fight of the scourge of cardiovascular diseases.

These are the principal enemy, not statins.

Please, listen to science, do not be afraid to take statins when advised by the doctor.

Best health wishes,
Dr. Maria Alice

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Dr Maria Alice is a consultant in General and Family Medicine. General Manager/Medical Director – Luzdoc International Medical Service / Medilagos. Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve