Statins are a relatively new class of medications that are being used more and more by doctors to lower cholesterol levels, with the hope of decreasing the risk of heart disease. A large new global research study suggests that statin medication may be helpful for people not usually prescribed statins today—adults with only mild risk factors for heart disease.
Called the HOPE-3 research trial, the results were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago (USA) last week. The HOPE-3 research involved 12,705 individuals from 21 countries, who were studied over nearly 6 years.
The design of the research was complex, but basically the researchers wanted to see if giving a daily low dose (10 mg.) of a common statin called rosuvastatin, would help people diminish their risk of having a stroke or a heart attack over the 6 years of the study. Some of the people in the study had hypertension, but none of the people in the study had a history of a stroke or a heart attack.
The researchers also wanted to know if giving a low-dose of blood pressure medication (candesartan with hydrocholorthiazide) would give additional benefit. The results showed that the blood pressure medication only helped the people who had high blood pressure, but that the statin drug helped any adult over the age of 50 (with mild heart disease risk factors) lower their chance of having of heart attack or stroke.
Results from use of statins
The addition of the statin medication decreased the risk of heart attack or stroke by 25%, and a person with hypertension who took both the blood pressure drug as well as the statin lowered their risk of heart attack or stroke by 40%.
Dr. Salim Yusuf, of McMaster University (Canada), and principal author of the study says “The implications for practice are huge—I think we certainly should consider using statins much more widely than we have used them thus far. In particular for patients with hypertension, our study suggests you can essentially double the benefit of lowering blood pressure if you also lower cholesterol simultaneously.”
But this whole subject of when to take statins is still very controversial. Note this reserach study, while sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, was partially financed by an American pharmaceutical company (AstraZeneca) that sells billions of dollars of statin medication yearly.
This study suggests that adults with only mild risks of heart disease might benefit from adding a daily low dose of statin medication, but your best bet is to discuss this with your doctor or your cardiologist.
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