Statin users are at risk of ‘cardiovascular disease’ if they take medication alone

While statins are effective at lowering cholesterol levels, an unchanging lifestyle may mean that patients are still at risk for life-threatening strokes or heart attacks. Research shows that even with the introduction of statin therapy, “many people are still at much higher risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.” This conclusion was based on a 2019 study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) by researchers at the University of Nottingham.

They followed 165,411 patients with high cholesterol but no CVD prior to starting statins.

According to current national guidelines, a baseline low-density lipoprotein (bad) cholesterol reduction of less than 40% is considered a “suboptimal response to statins”.

The results showed that 51.2 percent of patients had a sub-optimal response to initiated statin therapy within two years.

During the six-year follow-up period, 22,798 cardiovascular events were recorded.

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Holly Roper, nutrition manager at Raisio, commented on the statin intervention and study.

While statins have had “a significant impact on the heart health of many people… there is no one-size-fits-all approach” through “pharmacological interventions such as statins or ezetimibe.”

How do statins work?

Heart UK, the leading cholesterol charity, explains: “Statins work by slowing down the production of cholesterol.” [low-density lipoprotein] LDL cholesterol in the liver, where it is produced.

“Because the liver doesn’t make that much cholesterol, it then takes the cholesterol out of your blood to make bile out of it, so blood cholesterol levels drop.”

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Statins work by blocking the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, which speeds up the production of LDL cholesterol.

If you’re taking statins, to get the most benefit from your medication, the charity has some important tips.

  • Take statins every day at the same time.
  • If you forget to take a tablet, do not take an extra one the next day.
  • Avoid grapefruit juice
  • Talk to your doctor if you experience side effects.

Heart UK adds: “Keep looking after your health by eating healthy, being active, watching what you drink and quitting if you smoke.

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“Statins can lower cholesterol levels, but they will work better if you lead a healthy lifestyle.”

Holly said that “the use of plant stanol esters should also be considered” when it comes to controlling cholesterol levels.

“Plant stanols reduce cholesterol absorption,” confirmed Holly, who said they could be used in combination with statins.

Heart UK has confirmed that sterols and stanols lower cholesterol levels.

“There is very strong scientific evidence from many controlled clinical trials in humans that sterols and stanols lower blood cholesterol levels,” the charity said in a statement.

He added that they “may be used to lower cholesterol levels as part of a healthy diet.”

Raiso manufactures Benecol® and plant stanol ester solutions, as well as plant-based food products.

Trademarks include Benecol®, Beanit®, Elovena®, Sunnuntai® and Torino®.

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