Cholesterol-lowering drugs are more likely to save thousands of additional lives when used in people with higher levels of LDL cholesterol, or ‘bad’ cholesterol, according to a new study by the University of Iowa.
The findings show that doctors should more aggressively treat patients who have high levels of LDL cholesterol with statins, and patients should feel safe using them.
Jennifer Robinson, the study’s co-author, said: ‘Statins are the safest drugs we have to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death in a wide range of patients. Patients with higher LDL cholesterol levels are likely to experience even greater health benefits from taking statins and some of the newer cholesterol drugs.’
The researchers analysed 34 previous studies that involved more than 270,000 participants. The analysis found that statins were more likely to reduce the risk of death when LDL cholesterol levels were 100 milligrams per decilitre or greater, whether or not they were used with other LDL-lowering drugs.
Robinson says the study found the lives of an additional 4.3 in 1,000 people were saved every year when treated with LDL cholesterol lowering therapy. The greatest benefit, and the greatest reduction in death rates, came to those with the highest levels of LDL cholesterol, she says.
LDL cholesterol causes fat and plaque to build up in arteries, increasing the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Levels below 100 mg/dl are considered optimal, and readings above 100 mg/dl are considered unhealthy.
The study shows that LDL-lowering drugs can be effective for preventing heart attacks and stroke in people with risk factors even when LDL cholesterol levels are low, but even more heart attacks and deaths are prevented when people have LDL levels above 100 mg/dl.