4 CHOLESTEROL Conventional Treatment Statin drugs are currently the only FDA-approved prescription drugs for reducing LDL cholesterol. Some of the most popular brands of statin drugs include ­ Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor, and Mevacor. Statins can be effective in certain cases because they block a substance that the body needs to make cholesterol. Some of these drugs may also help your body reabsorb accumulated cholesterol to help prevent plaque buildup. However, statin drugs have a long list of side effects, including: • Muscle and joint aches and pains • Liver damage • Nausea • Diarrhea or constipation • Increased risk of diabetes • Deficiency of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) • Rhabdomyolysis and potential renal failure Perhaps the most concerning side effects of statins are liver and kidney damage. These drugs can cause an increase in liver enzymes, so a liver test should be done periodically while statins are being used. Increased liver enzymes can lead to permanent liver damage. In some cases, statins cause muscle cells to break down and release a protein that can damage the kidneys. Taking certain drugs and drinking alcohol in excess can magnify these side effects. Statin drugs have become big business. Accounting for 6.5 percent of the total market share, statin drugs are the most widely sold pharmaceutical drugs in history. To date, Forbes Magazine tells us that statins are earning drug companies $26 billion in sales every year, with no sign of slowing. While these drugs have saved many lives, such widespread use may not be necessary. They are so widely used that, over the past five years, more than 214 million monthly prescriptions for statin drugs were handed out to patients annually, according to data provided by IMS Health, a consulting firm that can track drug prescriptions at the pharmacy level. A targeted approach that employs statins for certain individuals—such as those with atherosclerosis on a calcium scan, diabetes, or known heart disease—is the best way to use these drugs. Although the new guidelines appear to encourage a more individualized approach, statin drugs still form the cornerstone of treatment, despite their long list of side effects. Fortunately, there are a number of natural ways to foster a healthy cholesterol profile and lessen the odds of developing cardiovascular disease. And, as you will learn in the following pages, many of these strategies are within your own control. Depletion of CoQ10 is concerning because this nutrient is so important to optimal heart function. CoQ10 is a critical antioxidant that plays an important role in providing energy to the cells, especially those in the heart. As an antioxidant, it scavenges free radicals, thus protecting proteins, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and mitochondrial DNA from oxidative damage. And since low levels are implicated in virtually all types of cardiovascular disease, anything that depletes CoQ10 can spell trouble for your ticker.