DUBLIN, Ireland — How bad is “bad cholesterol” when it comes to heart health? A new study finds the link between the two may not be as strong as many doctors have thought.
In fact, a team from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) says taking cholesterol-lowering statins appears to do very little to help prevent a heart attack or stroke. Their study is now questioning the use of LDL cholesterol-lowering statins for the purpose of cutting a patient’s heart disease risk.
Estimates show that more than 200 million people worldwide take statins to either lower cholesterol levels or improve heart health. Previous research has pointed to statins playing a role in improving cardiovascular disease outcomes — including the risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke, or premature death from all causes.
‘Inconsistent and inconclusive impact’
However, these new findings reveal less-than-convincing evidence that this benefit is really significant. Specifically, researchers found statins had an “inconsistent and inconclusive impact” on CVD outcomes. Moreover, the true impact of taking LDL cholesterol-lowering statins may actually depend on each patient’s personal risk factors.
“The message has long been that lowering your cholesterol will reduce your risk of heart disease, and that statins help to achieve this. However, our research indicates that, in reality, the benefits of taking statins are varied and can be quite modest,” says lead author Dr. Paula Byrne in a media release.
Study authors add that health professionals should be communicating these new findings to patients who are making decisions about their heart health and which prescription drugs to take.
Along with cardiovascular disease, recent studies have also found inconsistent data surrounding statins and COVID-19. While some reports find evidence the cholesterol drug could lessen the severity of the virus, others find statins have little use as a coronavirus treatment.
The findings are published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.