Sleep Apnea, Statins, & Stroke: A Travesty?

The standard of care after stroke these days is to give high-dose statins (cholesterol lowering drugs), in order to prevent a second stroke. Researchers reported that although rates of statin therapy after stoke are improving (from 75 to 85%), more needs to be done to encourage doctors to prescribe statins to everyone who suffers a stroke. This recommendation was based on the SPARCL trial, which showed that loading up on high doses of statins after an initial stroke lowered the rate of repeat strokes. If you actually read through the details, it shows that the absolute drop was 2.2% over 5 years, and 16% relative risk reduction. But despite the finding that Lipitor actually increased the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, the investigators still recommended starting statin therapy soon after a stroke or TIA.

Despite the well-intentioned recommendations by medical researchers, they're completely missing the boat. This situation reminds me of Dr. Mercola's video, The Town of Allopath. You should definitely watch this video. In summary, the town of Allopath (pun intended) had too many traffic accidents at an intersection without traffic lights. An expert was brought in from the Motor Division (MD) to determine the cause of these accidents. A town meeting was convened, and the expert proudly announced the cause of all the accidents: tire skid marks. With great enthusiasm, they decide to cover up the skid marks with Teflon, thinking that if you prevent skidding, then you won't have any more accidents. You can imagine what happens next. 

In the same way, elevated LDL cholesterol levels is only a sign of conditions that predisposes you to having a stroke. Having sleep apnea can cause liver dysfunction and altered lipid metabolism. We also know that most stroke patients have sleep apnea, and that having sleep apnea increases your chances of stroke by 2-3 times normal. I would think that screening for obstructive sleep apnea and treating it is a much more effective way of preventing second strokes.

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5 thoughts on “Sleep Apnea, Statins, & Stroke: A Travesty?

  1. The cholesterol is the bandage for inflamed arteries, and using a statin to treat it leaves blood vessels more vulnerable, especially after reducing the body's CoQ10.    Since inflammation can be reduced by dealing with sleep apnea, intake of a low inflammatory- low carbohydrate diet, water, exercise and anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric, the statin treatment isn't necessary.  I like your skidmarks causing accidents analogy.
    See http://www.acupuncturebrooklyn.com/articles-by-karen-vaughan/cholesterol-unfairly-vilified

  2. Sadly most doctors are clueless as to the possible connection between strokes and sleep apnea (Just as they are with diabetes, high blood pressure, etc)

  3. My husband had mitral valve repair and one bypass at age 41.  I finally convinced him to get checked for sleep apnea later on and he was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. I have spent countless hrs. researching his heart condition and alternative treatments. We've had bad experiences with statins and other meds and I frankly don't trust all their hype, along with the side effects. I get annoyed that most doctors take the easy prescription route and don't look at the underlying issues, the overall health picture and other alternatives. It's beginning to dawn on me that the apnea could be why his LDL is a little high because of it's strain on the heart and arteries since cholesterol is a defensive mechanism as well. We recently switched to the full face mask because the nose one was not effective enough with mouth breathing (I had to bring attention to this!). I think there is something to this and will be paying attention.

  4. I was prescribed a statin to lower LdL. The lab work confirmed the drop and life seemed to go on unabated. After a few years I was showing signs of poor sleep, occasional nightmares and insomnia. Then I exhibited sleep apnea according to the sleep disorder center I went to. In fact, I had central sleep apnea where I would wake up gasping for air. As I understand this there is a disconnect between my brain and my respitory system. I had to go on cpap for treatment. Although I wasnt waking up with cpap the quality of sleep just was not there. I upgraded to a variable cpap and found this to be better but found my average use was 4 hours a night. Let me also say I had leg pains that were pretty bad. My hemoglobin A1c was elevated indicating pre-diabetic. And finally I just felt tired all the time. After reading about the effects of statin use I decided to withdraw slowly to the point where I only take a dose of 2.5 to 5 mg. I use this to control inflamation based on a book I read from an MD who has reported some findings that I believe are correct and true. After I stopped using the 20 mg dose I notice the leg pain went away. I didnt need the cpap and found my quality of sleep better than it has been for a long time. I seem to dream more than I ever can remember and no nightmares so far. I began an exercising program because I have the energy level up, and my blood sugar is normal. As for me, I believe statins were making me ill despite the good LDL numbers. I am not a doctor but no one knows my body and how I feel better than me. This may be harsh but statin use was poison to my body!