New Evidence of Heart and Stroke Prevention
The July 6 issue of the highly respected British Journal, Lancet, had a blockbuster (literally) paper that conclusively showed that the lipid lowering drugs called "statins" prevent heart attack, stroke and the need for procedures to unblock arteries. You may already be on these drugs if you have high cholesterol, and you therefore might not realize what the relevance of this report that was based on a British study of more than 20,000 people at risk for having a heart attack or stroke.
The relevance of the new finding to everyone who is at risk of having a heart attack and stroke (almost anyone over the age of 50!) is that the statin drugs compared to placebo reduced death rate from heart attack by 18% and the incidence of heart attacks by 25%. This is a huge effect and it was found in men and women, old and younger patients. It was also found to be safe. That is, there were few serious side affects attributed to the medicines.
One of the most surprising aspects of the study was that the benefit was not found to be related to the reduction of cholesterol since many of the people put on the drugs had normal cholesterol. In other words, the statin drugs by mechanisms not yet fully understood, but not related to lowering of cholesterol, still had the big treatment effect. The conclusion is that many people should be on statins irrespective of their cholesterol, especially if they have the known risk factors for heart disease such as smoking, hypertension, age, and strong family history. This is a very new finding and is causing doctors across the work to rethink their approach to the prevention of heart attacks.
There was other good news in the Lancet paper. Stroke was also reduced by the use of statins. Again, people at risk for stroke or with a strong history of stroke in the family might consider taking this drug to prevent stroke.
The statins are Pravachol, Lesocol, Lipitor, Zocor, and Altace. They are commonly provided to reduce cholesterol, but it has been know for some time by physicians that the effectiveness of these drugs "seemed" to be more than simple cholesterol reduction. We now have evidence that for sure these drugs are useful in reducing death from heart attacks, heart attacks that are non-fatal, and stroke. All this means that if you consider yourself at risk for heart attack or stroke you should consult with your physician about taking a statin drug if you are not already on one.