Statins to lower cholesterol may not reduce risk of cardiovascular disease

New research suggests that taking high levels of statins to lower your cholesterol, in order to reduce your risk of heart disease, could actually be carrying no benefits for some people.
The most widely-prescribed drug in the UK, statins are used by around seven million people on a long-term basis in order to lower levels of LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol, with its cost to the NHS being £285m each year.
However, the cholesterol-lowering statins do not appear to have as much benefit as it was originally thought, according to the Israeli-led research. Along with American and Canadian scientists, researchers from the Clalit Research Institute in Tel Aviv studied 31,619 patients with pre-existing heart disease, investigating the aggressiveness of treatment with the development of cardiovascular risks.
They looked at the levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) in the patients, and found that while the results showed a significant difference in risk of cardiovascular disease between those with moderate cholesterol and high cholesterol, there was very little difference in risk between moderate cholesterol and low cholesterol.
29 per cent (9,086) of the participants had low levels of LDL-C, 53 per cent (16,782) had moderate levels of LDL-C, and 18 per cent (5,751) had high levels of LDL-C. During the average 1.6 years that the participants were followed for, 9,035 either died, or suffered serious heart problems.
Guidelines on healthy cholesterol levels vary, but the research suggests that the recommendation of the European Society of Cardiology to aim for LDL-C levels below 70mg/dL is misguided, as the difference it makes is negligible.
Study author Dr Morton Leibowitz said: “Our study demonstrates that physicians treating patients with heart disease and elevated levels of cholesterol with statins have to ensure that patients meet a target of less than 100mg/Dl to prevent future [heart-related] events.
“There is, however, no evidence at present that increasing the intensity of treatment to lower LDL levels further adds benefit.”
The findings were published in the online journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

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