Cholesterol-lowering medication reduces risk of death even years after use, according to results of a recent study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
First started in 1989, the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study was designed to assess the risks and benefits of statin use in patients without heart disease. High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease—the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States. While cholesterol-lowering statins are beneficial to patients with heart disease, there’s debate over statin use in otherwise healthy patients.
For this reason, researchers assessed the long-term impact of statin use in more than 6,500 “healthy” men with high cholesterol. For five years, participants were randomly assigned to take daily statins or a placebo drug with no active ingredients. Men were 45–64 years old at the start of the study and followed for more than 20 years.
Although many men did not continue statin use after the five-year trial, the benefits of treatment were long-lasting. After following participants for two decades, researchers found that statin users had 13% lower risk of death and significantly lower risk for hospitalization than men that took the placebo drug. Statin use appears to be safe, as there was no difference in complications among the two study groups. Shorter-term analysis of this data, which was previously published, also found that statin treatment reduced health care costs over a fifteen-year period.
Based on findings, authors conclude that statin treatment has lasting heart-health benefits, even years after use. In this study, taking statins for just five years helped improve outcomes over a 20-year period in “healthy” men with high cholesterol. As such, authors encourage broader statin use to help patients with high cholesterol prevent heart disease. Combined with a healthy lifestyle, statins are an important way to help patients reduce risk for heart disease and life-threatening heart events.