The Mad Hatter: ‘Have I gone mad?’
Alice: ‘I’m afraid so, you’re completely bonkers, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.’
Alice in Wonderland
I find myself quoting Alice in Wonderland more and more these days. I now think it was never a children’s book, it was an accurate scientific analysis of human behaviour.
As many of you are aware the American medical authorities have come up with the latest guidelines to reduce cardiovascular risk. A major part of the guidelines is now to inform us all that we should forget about lowering cholesterol (LDL) levels, and just take a statin…. no matter what¹.
This is how the New York Times put it:
First, the guidelines have moved away from achieving target cholesterol levels.
Americans have long been urged to focus on their laboratory numbers. Many people are obsessive about checking their cholesterol levels and pursuing even better numbers. Doctors have been told to focus on these numbers and, in some cases, the quality of their care was assessed by the percentage of their patients with low cholesterol levels.
Those days are over. The new guidelines recognize that for patients who have exhausted lifestyle efforts and are considering drug therapy, the question is not whether a drug makes your lab tests better, but whether it lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies over the past several years have shown that improving your lab profile with drugs is not equivalent to lowering your heart risks².
One of the most influential cardiologists in the world, Steven Nissen, had this to say:
“The evidence was never there” for the LDL targets, he said. Past committees “made them up out of thin air,” he added.
Past committees made them up out of thin air….. Let me try that statement again…. Past committees made them up out of thin air. Exactly. Ex-bleedingly-zactly.
So, ladies and gentlemen, you have been conned. Utterly, completely and barefacedly conned, for the last thirty years. Your cholesterol level has absolutely no impact on your risk of cardiovascular disease. You think not? Well, that is precisely what they are saying in these guidelines. If not in quite such plain words.
But, of course, I am not being entirely fair to them. The level of LDL may actually matter after all – according to the same guidelines. For, as the New York Times article goes on to say.
There’s one exception to the numbers rule. People with very high levels of the harmful cholesterol known as LDL still need to worry about targets. The new guidelines set that LDL level at 190 milligrams per deciliter – but the principle is that if people have very high cholesterol levels, then their cardiovascular risk is so high that it is likely that treatment to reduce the levels would offset any risks of the drug treatment.
So, your LDL level doesn’t matter in the slightest, unless it is a very high level. Then the level does matter a great deal. Please explain, oh great cardiologists, does LDL, or does it not, cause cardiovascular disease.
Well, it seems that it both does, and does not, simultaneously. Amazingly, we have achieved a quantum state with LDL. It simultaneously exists as a molecule that can both cause – and not cause – CVD. Which means, of course, that the levels must be both lowered, and not lowered. Yes, well, this makes perfect sense. At least it would to a lunatic.
Perhaps if we open the box with the ‘at risk cat’ in it, we will find that this new version of Schrodinger’s cat died of a heart attack caused by LDL. Alternatively, it did not. Before opening the box, it exists in both possible states. It is an interesting variation on a theme.
The most astonishing thing is not that these people are now talking the most complete gibberish. They have been doing this for years. The most astonishing thing is that the vast majority of the population will still listen to what they have to say – and follow their advice.
Well, good luck with that all you billions of mad people, following the advice of these mad scientists Good luck with that indeed. I salute you. Meanwhile I shall attempt to find the answer to a far more important question than what causes heart disease.
“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”1: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/11/11/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1