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Just What I Needed

Dennis Friedman

I MENTIONED IN an earlier article that my wife and I were planning a trip to the U.K. Before we went, I thought I better see my primary care physician. I didn’t want any medical surprises. We’ll be gone for five weeks. A lot can happen to a 71-year-old during that time.

My doctor retired a few months ago, so I decided I’d go see my mother’s old doctor. He specializes in geriatric medicine. I thought he’d be a good fit for my aging body.

He asked me if I had any concerns. I told him I wasn’t sure about my cholesterol. My previous doctor thought it was fine because I had a lot of good cholesterol. He said, “It’s not just the cholesterol levels you look at. You also have to factor in your age, blood pressure and glucose level.”

He put all my data into a formula. “This is your number,” the doctor said. “It’s outside the acceptable range. You need to be on cholesterol medication.”

I also told him I was uneasy about taking the trip. When I’m traveling, It seems like I’m always looking for a restroom. He prescribed medication that will help me manage the issue—one a lot of older men have.

Before I turned 70, I wasn’t on any medication. I was so proud of myself. All my other friends were carrying around pill boxes. Now, I have my own pill box.

But you know what? I’m glad I’m taking medication for my health issues. It’s made the trip more enjoyable. I enjoy my meals more. I’m eating food I wouldn’t have eaten. Of course, you still have to eat sensibly. I’m also not looking for a restroom as often.

I feel a lot younger. This medication has turned back the clock. I always thought the best time to travel is before you retire, and it is. But I feel like I got a second chance.

I found it takes more than money if you want a comfortable retirement. You also have to have your health. At my age, I’m not concerned about running out of money. I’m more concerned about how aging will affect my quality of life.

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Stephen Koenigsberg
Stephen Koenigsberg
5 months ago

10 years ago a chubby doctor said my cholesterol was high and prescribed statins. I said I’d rather try diet first and this chubby doc warned my no one sticks to the diet. I did and with exercise kept my total to 165-85. Last year I’m told that despite my exemplary efforts my bad cholesterol is high and I have a 24% chance of a cardiac event in the next 10 years. The statins gave me unacceptable muscle aches. But heart scan shows score of 0. I’m taking a holiday from worrying about it, and enjoying my usual lifestyle of eating vegan and hiking at altitude here in Colorado. I’m 75, almost 6 feet, 170 lbs, and in many ways trust my own instincts more than the doctors (unless they themselves are health nuts and athletes).

John Elway
John Elway
5 months ago

Reminds me of an old Christmas card.
The guy said, “Well, I’m officially over the hill. I spent more on meds than booze last year!”

w0_0dy
w0_0dy
5 months ago

Here is a tool from the American College of Cardiology site, used to estimate 10 year risk of developing coronary artery disease in adults aged 20-79. the current guidelines suggest no statin for those with a 10 year risk of <5%, statin for those with 20+% risk, and individualized decision-making for those between 5-20% risk based on the presence of “risk enhancers” possibly including a screening heart calcium scan.

for those in the 5-20% risk range, perhaps a good question to ask before starting a statin is how much risk reduction will be achieved by reaching the target lipid levels. knowing that, it then becomes a question of does X% reduction of coronary artery disease risk outweigh the hassle of taking a pill daily and having periodic blood work?

mytimetotravel
mytimetotravel
5 months ago

A few years back my LDL went up to 150 (my HDL was high too, so the total looked worse). My PCP’s immediate reaction was to put me on statins. Instead I changed my diet (no white carbs or bad fats) and upped my exercise. My LDL dropped below 100. My LDL is up again, due to a medication known to have that effect. I never changed my diet back, so this time I am considering a month on statins to see if that will get it down, but I will not go on them long term. I do not believe that a large percentage of the population needs to be on statins long term, especially given the potential side effects. It is a gift to the bloated pharmaceutical industry.

Will Wiener
Will Wiener
5 months ago
Reply to  mytimetotravel

Statins are off patent, generic drugs.
No profits for big Pharma.

mytimetotravel
mytimetotravel
5 months ago
Reply to  Will Wiener

You don’t think that the manufacturers of generics also count as big pharma? Or that that name brand companies don’t have an interest in generics? See: https://www.imarcgroup.com/generic-drug-manufacturing-companies

Will Wiener
Will Wiener
5 months ago
Reply to  mytimetotravel

Pfizer and Merck have both spun
out generic drug businesses
(Viatris and Organon) – article
seems dated as it mentions
Mylan but this was merged
with Pfizer interests into
Viatris. Some generic drugs
are expensive but not statins.
They are often provided with
zero co-pays. Statins are
effective – heart attacks have
been reduced significantly
since their introduction.
Don’t think it can be attributed
to diet and exercise. No drug
Is perfect under all circumstances
but suggest you read more about
benefits of statins.

IAD
IAD
5 months ago

I’m kind of torn. I’m very pro-medicine and pro-medication, but it seems like the medical profession is quick to prescribe a life long commitment to a drug with the goal not to get better but to maintain. For the cholesterol, was there even a discussion of lifestyle choices, change in diet, exercise levels, levels of smoking and drinking, etc. I realize there are some conditions that require life saving medication, but it seems medication is the first stop instead of the last.

It seems that with many doctors incentivized to prescribe medication that is intentioned to maintain verses heal, the pharmaceutical industry just keeps adding one guaranteed income stream after another. That being said, the fault isn’t entirely with the doctors as we want the silver bullet, the problem fixed with minimal effort. Its always a miracle fat loss pill verses exercising and watching what we eat and drink.

Last edited 5 months ago by IAD
Brent Wilson
Brent Wilson
5 months ago
Reply to  IAD

Had the author visited a generalist, I might agree. But the doctor who prescribed this medication specializes in geriatric medicine. I’m sure they took the time to understand the author’s lifestyle, diet, exercise, family history, etc. and made the proper determination to prescribe medication.

Randy Dobkin
Randy Dobkin
5 months ago
Reply to  IAD

I got a new functional medicine doctor who got me off my statin.

Will
Will
5 months ago
Reply to  Randy Dobkin

what is a “functional medicine” doctor??

Randy Dobkin
Randy Dobkin
5 months ago
Reply to  Will

Functional medicine considers the whole body, not breaking it down into the silos of conventional medicine. These doctors tend to use lifestyle changes, food, and supplements before drugs.

R Quinn
R Quinn
5 months ago
Reply to  IAD

I agree. I had a 93 year old aunt who was told her cholesterol was high and a doctor wanted to put her on meds. Seems like that is not the appropriate time. Of course, she only lived to 97.

DrLefty
DrLefty
5 months ago
Reply to  R Quinn

LOL. My husband’s widowed grandfather was living in his own apartment in a retirement community but had a daily caregiver who’d come in and make him lunch and do light housekeeping. Once the caregiver told my mother-in-law, who lived nearby: “You need to talk to your dad about his drinking. I found TWO empty wine bottles in the recycling this week!”

My reaction was a) two bottles in a week isn’t THAT bad and b) so what? He might not make it to age 103? (He passed at 102, still living mostly independently.)

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