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Statins Have Heart Benefits Beyond Lowering Cholesterol

Laura Joszt
While statins are primarily used to lower cholesterol, they are also associated with improved heart structure and function, according to research presented at EuroCMR 2017, which was held by the European Society of Cardiology, May 25-27, in Prague, Czech Republic.
While statins are primarily used to lower cholesterol, they are also associated with improved heart structure and function, according to research presented at EuroCMR 2017, which was held by the European Society of Cardiology, May 25-27, in Prague, Czech Republic.

According to the study’s lead author, Dr Nay Aung of Queen Mary University in London, United Kingdom, statins are also “highly effective in preventing cardiovascular events in patients who have had a heart attack or are at risk of heart disease.”

Small studies in humans have shown that statins reduce the thickness of the heart muscle and also improve the function of blood vessels, reduce inflammation, and stabilize fatty plaques in the blood vessels.

The study of 4622 people without cardiovascular disease assessed the relationship between statin use and heart structure and function. Nearly 17% of the participants were taking statins and they were more likely to be older, have higher body mass index and blood pressure, and have diabetes and hypertension.

“People using statins were less likely to have a thickened heart muscle (left ventricular hypertrophy) and less likely to have a large heart chamber,” Aung said in a statement. “Having a thick, large heart is a strong predictor of future heart attack, heart failure or stroke and taking statins appears to reverse the negative changes in the heart which, in turn, could lower the risk of adverse outcomes.”

However, the people taking statins were still at a higher risk of having heart problems compared with people not taking statins. While there are benefits beyond lowering cholesterol, statin prescribers should still identify people who will benefit the most from them.

“That means looking at not only clinical risk factors such as smoking and high blood pressure, but also genetic (hereditary) factors which can predict individuals’ response to statins,” Aung said. “This is an area of growing interest and one that we are also investigating in our lab with our collaborators.”

 
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