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Feb 17, 2012

Benefits of Statin Use in Women

Statins are equally effective in women as in men.

Statins are a type of drug that reduces the liver’s production of cholesterol, helping to lower bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol and slow the formation of plaque in the arteries. Among the most effective cholesterol-lowering drugs available, statins serve two important roles: preventing a first cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke, and reducing the risk of another cardiovascular event in patients with existing heart disease.

Although statins are generally recommended for both men and women, there is a much larger body of evidence demonstrating the benefits of statin use among men than among women. However, this does not necessarily mean that statins are any more or less beneficial in women than in men. Instead, it is a reflection of women being underrepresented in studies, leading to less evidence.

To help even out the playing field, a recent study published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology analyzed data from 18 past studies—all of which reported sex-specific outcomes. By looking at the combined findings of these studies, researchers were better able to measure the effects of statin use in women through a larger evidence base.

So what did they find? After analyzing data from more than 141,000 study participants, 40,275 of whom were women, researchers found that not only does statin use significantly reduce cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality in men and women, but that the benefits were similar among both sexes. These benefits were observed in patients using statins for both primary and secondary prevention (before and after a first heart attack or stroke). These findings help clarify that the benefits of statins do not vary between the sexes and support guidelines recommending statin use for cardiovascular risk reduction in both men and women. The findings also highlight the need for better representation of women in research studies so that sex-specific differences are better documented and understood.

Read this Article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Are there differences among different types of statins?

  • Yes. Statins can differ in many ways, including efficacy, side effects and drug interactions. The type of statin that is right for a patient depends on his or her unique needs, as determined by a health care provider.
  • Are statins always used in patients with high cholesterol?

  • Although statins are extremely effective in lowering cholesterol and reducing cardiovascular risk, not all patients may need them. In fact, cholesterol can be effectively lowered in some patients with simple lifestyle changes including exercise and diet.


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