Healthy living

Stronger statins could prevent more heart and stroke deaths

Stronger statins could prevent more heart and stroke deaths Lower 'bad' cholesterol

Thousands of deaths due to heart disease and stroke could be prevented if patients were treated aggressively, with higher doses and more potent statins, a large study has found.

Statins are cholesterol lowering drugs which are already prescribed to millions of people in the UK with heart disease.

Researchers from Oxford and Sydney universities looked at the effect of statins on heart disease by analysing data from 26 separate studies involving 170,000 people.

Higher doses of statins cut heart related deaths and non-fatal heart attacks by 13 per cent and strokes by 16 per cent. There was also a 19 per cent fall in patients requiring bypass or other coronary treatments.

Researchers said the fall in death rates was related to the levels of "bad" LDL-cholesterol.

Study leader Professor Colin Baignot, from Oxford University, said: "It is a continuous relationship right the way down to very low levels of cholesterol."

For every unit reduction in bad LDL-cholesterol due to statins, the chance of a heart attack, stroke or related hospital procedure fell.

Ths was true for male and female patients, those with a history of heart or circulatory disease, young and old and even people with low cholesterol levels.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, which helped fund the study, said: “We know that cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease – cutting it cuts your risk of a heart attack.

“This research may change GPs’ guidelines on how to prescribe statins, and gives them another tool for helping people keep their hearts healthy.”

He also added that a type of statin - simvastatin - can have side effects such as muscle weakness when used at higher doses. But doctors could also use combinations of statins and other cholesterol lowering drugs as an alternative, he added.

This article was published on Tue 9 November 2010

Image © Cecilia Lim -

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