Healthy Habits Better Than Statins

You may recall a study from a few years ago about how certain healthy habits — consumption of ≥5 fruits or vegetable/day, regular exercise >12 times/month, moderate alcohol consumption, and not smoking — decreased mortality risk regardless of weight.

You may not have seen this part:

The results of this study reinforce the association between healthy lifestyle habits and decreased mortality risk regardless of baseline BMI. This finding is of great importance to both patients and health care providers, whose perceptions about BMI may lead them to believe only obese and/or overweight patients require regular counseling about lifestyle adjustments. Although the evidence suggests that patients across the BMI spectrum should adhere to a healthy lifestyle to optimize health, many patients with a normal-weight BMI may believe exercise and healthy eating, for example, are less important for them as long as they maintain a low BMI.

I’ve mentioned before that the emphasis on fat often leads thin people to assume they’re healthy.  Not necessarily — something the authors called out.

 In the pooled analysis that included all individuals in the cohort (normal weight, overweight, and obese), the adoption of each additional healthy habit decreased all-cause mortality between 29% and 85% (Table 2). To put this in perspective, statins decrease all-cause mortality by 12% in individuals at high risk for cardiovascular disease.  Given the tremendous benefits of a healthy lifestyle, policies and programs that encourage adherence to healthy lifestyles should be encouraged both locally and at a national level.

What can be done about this?  Encouraging moderate exercise & use of alcohol, abstaining from smoking, and eating more fruits and veggies.   The study authors also note that when primary care providers take the time to urge things things, it can be “effective in decreasing smoking, increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, moderating alcohol consumption, and increasing exercise frequency.”  (That’s more than they can say for weight loss.)

PS: I see references to statins a lot. They make money, despite side effects.  Not smoking? Doesn’t make money.  Exercise can make money, as can selling more fruits & vegetables — but not as much as a drug.  Hm.

5 thoughts on “Healthy Habits Better Than Statins

  1. I am on a statin, just to make full disclosure. I agree that they should not be the first thing tried, however, there are sound reasons for their use. My blood work got slightly better as I adjusted my exercise and diet to healthier levels. But not nearly enough to put me in a lower risk group. Added a low dose statin and those numbers fell into the best range. So please do not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Statins have a role to play in some people’s health management.

    • I don’t disagree – just pointing out that statins get a lot of press, whereas many of those other things are “Eh, nobody does that” or “Yes, we know, so what?” I’m also very, very tired of the nagging for people to lose weight “for their health”, when SCIENCE shows that “people – fat OR thin – who do healthy things improve their health! BETTER than losing weight in fat people!”

      That I think is worth thinking about.

      I also note that the numbers were comparing statins’ effect “on all-cause mortality in people at high risk for cardiovascular disease” is perhaps a little more narrow than these other habits. Partly that’s because statins work just to lower cholesterol, whereas things like “not smoking” and “exercise” help prevent lots of different health issues. For example, if statins prevent your heart disease from getting worse that is great! – but – it won’t stop you from (hope not) falling and breaking your hip. Exercise can help with both. OTOH, if cardiovascular disease is your biggest risk, focusing on that is probably a good thing.

  2. However, plenty of research has shown that they are helpful to PERHAPS 10% of men who have previously had a heart attack, completely useless in women, & that they have many serious side effects. Also, plenty of research indicates that we do not have the enormous cholesterol problem the drug industry wants us to believe we have & that, for the most part, the only people who really need to be concerned with cholesterol are those who have a hereditary condition called hypercholesterolemia. In other words, with statins, as with so many things, we are being sold a bill of goods by people who care a great deal more about their profit margin than anyone’s health. A CEO of one of the big pharmaceutical companies told his board of directors about 50 years ago that he was not happy with just selling drugs to sick people & he wanted to sell to healthy people as well & more than one source has suggested that they would be happiest to have each of us, especially those over 50, on an average of 12 medications each. I don’t go to doctors unless I have no choice & I personally will not take statins, but that is my personal decision.

  3. Some of the slimmest people I know live on junk food and avoid vegetables. And I seriously do think they believe they’re immune to bad health because they’re slim.

    • And that is a valid concern from a public health standpoint. I don’t think anyone is obligated to try to be healthy, but the misinformation that leads people to believe “thin = healthy” is a problem.

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