Ask Larry:

Your Question: I’m a 63 year old ex-smoker. I had a good warning last August and wound up with a stent. I’ve been on FOUR prescriptions since then, including SIMVASTATIN 20mg and AMLODIPINE BESYLATE 5mg. I am not a fan of either of these drugs after reading about negative side effects and interactions. Cholesterol is under 200 and I am not diabetic. Thoughts?

Larry’s Response: Amlodipine stimulates an increase in blood flow to the heart. It also lowers blood pressure and slows the heart (because it lowers the resistance to blood flow). It is usually intended to lower discomfort from angina. It may also be ordered to lower the force on the implanted stent. It can make it difficult to increase heart rate. You may find it difficult (impossible?) to hit your target heart rate (yours is around 157, based on age) regardless of how much you work or sweat. As long as you are taking amlodipine you may want to change your target rate and just shoot for that number. You already know the possible side effects, so watch out for them.

Talk to your doctor about how long you are supposed to take the drug. I understand how you may WANT to stop, but it is best to have the doctor in on your plans.

Simvastatin lowers cholesterol. I have not found any evidence that cholesterol itself (or any of its pieces) CAUSES any disease. In fact, it is more likely that disease causes cholesterol to rise. The task, then, is to determine what is making the numbers go up and address it – not merely placing a bandaid over the symptoms. That approach makes sense to me, but not to most doctors.

I see no reason to ever use a statin drug, but I’m in a tiny minority on this point. I cannot advise anyone to stop taking statins without first getting approval from the doctor. I don’t think anyone should take those drugs, but I am not in a position to advise anyone to go against their doctor’s orders.

I’ll finish with a reminder that health is a personal matter. Nobody can possibly care about my health the way I do – especially a doctor who may see me for a few minutes every few months or years. They have thousands of patients (soon to be a lot more). To really care about each one would drive them bonkers. Sure, they can care for the few minutes I’m with them, but that is replaced by care for the next patient, then care for their life outside the office. I need to do what’s good for me. I address my health with diet, clean water, specific supplements, and exercise.

My friend, Bill, follows the same advice. I have lunch with him almost every Tuesday. He’s 95, goes to a health club daily, and drives a beautiful Cadillac – without a dent or scratch on it. He has never taken drugs and only uses fish oil every day. I want to be like Bill.