According to a new report, many Americans, who are especially at risk of heart disease, have been using statins to decrease their cholesterol levels.
Researchers said the new findings have suggested that a controversial change in guidelines in 2013 for cholesterol treatment seems to be paying off.
Lead study author and Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Pankaj Arora from the University of Alabama at Birmingham said, “It is very heartening. But there is more to do.”
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death and high cholesterol is of its key risk factors. Physicians have been prescribing statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs based on patients’ bad (LDL) cholesterol.
In 2013, national recommendations advised doctors to focus on patients’ overall heart risk by considering age, blood pressure, diabetes, and other factors instead of considering only cholesterol levels. People who are at a higher risk of heart disease would be treated effectively with statin drugs.
The researchers of the new report looked at the records from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They tracked cholesterol information from over 32,000 adults from 2005 to 2016.
The report, published Monday in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that people who have been taking cholesterol medication had a considerable amount of drop in their LDL cholesterol. The researchers found that there was a drop by 21 points in people who took statins.
In addition, they found that total cholesterol levels and triglycerides decreased among people who took their cholesterol medication regularly.
Preventive Cardiology Chief Dr. Michael Miller from the University of Maryland Medical Center, who was not part of the report, said, “These are surprisingly impressive results that together predict a 15% to 20% reduction in risk of heart attacks and strokes.”
Over the study period, the researchers also found that there was an increase in statin use by people with diabetes. Diabetics are more vulnerable to heart disease, with poor prognosis.
Cardiologist Dr. Neil Stone from Northwestern University said, “It’s very important for those with a diagnosis of diabetes to not get that first heart attack.” Dr. Stone played a key role in developing the 2013 guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.