Cholesterol By The Numbers

The Greek philosopher, Epictetus wrote; appearances are of four kinds:

Things are as they appear to be

They neither are, nor appear to be

They are, but do not appear to be

They are not, but appear to be

In a seminar on heart disease given to a number of audiences the following question was posed:

Would you take a drug every day for 5 years if it:

  1. Lowered your chance of having a heart attack by 33%.
  2. Lowered your chance of having a heart attack from 3% to 2%, a difference of 1%.
  3. Saved one person in one hundred from having a heart attack, but there was no way to tell in advance who that person would be.

About 80-90% of attendees usually raised their hands for “A”.

In most cases, about 20% responded to B and C.

The funny thing is… A, B and C are all the same answer.

Here’s why.

There are RELATIVE numbers and ABSOLUTE numbers.

RELATIVE numbers are used by the pharmaceutical companies in marketing of their cholesterol drugs and can make things “appear” different or more extreme than they actually are. This of course is to prompt you to take action regarding your one and only heart.

Let’s say your risk factor for a heart attack was 3%. If you took a drug for 5 years and reduced your risk factor by 33%, your risk would now be 2%. 33% of 3 is 1.

33% is the RELATIVE number. 1% is the ABSOLUTE number.

So while the pharmaceutical companies are making it “appear” that you’re lowering your cholesterol by 33%, the truth of the matter is you’re only lowering it by 1%.

Not only that… you’re subjecting yourself to the dangerous side effects of these drugs. There’s also the very real possibility that you’ll need other drugs to counter the side effects caused by the cholesterol drugs.

So is reducing your cholesterol by 1% with these drugs and their side effects really worth it?

Several studies have indicated that when patients are given the ABSOLUTE number they are less likely to choose a drug. The RELATIVE numbers are just an exaggeration to make you think their drugs do more than they really do.

They could actually be INCREASING your chances of a heart attack.

When it comes to heart disease and high blood pressure, the best that these types of therapies have EVER been known to do is provide a 1% decrease in the risk of a non-fatal heart attack.

It kind of makes you wonder how many of the 65 million Americans who are on these drugs really need them. RELATIVE-ly speaking, I’ll bet the ABSOLUTE number of people who really need them is pretty small.

While these drugs have their place in particular circumstances, they aren’t for the healthy.

Millions of people are tricked into believing they need to be on these medications because their cholesterol is elevated. Doctors assume their patients won’t take their advice to adjust their diets and exercise.

But if they had all the information necessary to make a good decision, I’m ABSOLUTE-ly sure most would choose an alternative way to lower their risk. After all, cholesterol is only one of several risk factors when it comes to heart disease.

When it comes to cholesterol, don’t be a fool… or fooled by the numbers.