Cholesterol confusion: Statins have little impact on heart health, study says

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DUBLIN, Ireland — How bad is “bad cholesterol” when it comes to heart health? A new study finds the link between the two may not be as strong as many doctors have thought.

In fact, a team from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) says taking cholesterol-lowering statins appears to do very little to help prevent a heart attack or stroke. Their study is now questioning the use of LDL cholesterol-lowering statins for the purpose of cutting a patient’s heart disease risk.

Estimates show that more than 200 million people worldwide take statins to either lower cholesterol levels or improve heart health. Previous research has pointed to statins playing a role in improving cardiovascular disease outcomes — including the risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke, or premature death from all causes.

‘Inconsistent and inconclusive impact’

However, these new findings reveal less-than-convincing evidence that this benefit is really significant. Specifically, researchers found statins had an “inconsistent and inconclusive impact” on CVD outcomes. Moreover, the true impact of taking LDL cholesterol-lowering statins may actually depend on each patient’s personal risk factors.

“The message has long been that lowering your cholesterol will reduce your risk of heart disease, and that statins help to achieve this. However, our research indicates that, in reality, the benefits of taking statins are varied and can be quite modest,” says lead author Dr. Paula Byrne in a media release.

Study authors add that health professionals should be communicating these new findings to patients who are making decisions about their heart health and which prescription drugs to take.

Along with cardiovascular disease, recent studies have also found inconsistent data surrounding statins and COVID-19. While some reports find evidence the cholesterol drug could lessen the severity of the virus, others find statins have little use as a coronavirus treatment.

The findings are published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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  1. This is old news but still good news. 10 years ago my doctor said my cholesterol was 221 and he was putting me on a statin. I said, “No, you aren’t”, and he was not happy. I said, “Let’s see what it is next year.” I went home and told my wife, “Cholesterol is up, how about watching our diet so it goes down?” She said no problem. The next year the reading was 189. We keep it around that with no problem and still eat plenty of what we like.

    1. Same story here, albeit 20 years ago. My doc was dumbfounded that I said no, but even back then I wasn’t willing to take a drug with known side effects for a condition that could be controlled with diet and exercise.

  2. Uh oh, another blow to the credibility of the healthcare industry. I’m starting to think they make their drug decisions based on the commercials they see on TV. Well the commercial says it will lower your cholesterol and prevent a heart attack, well by golly that’s what we should do, pats self on the back, makes millions buying Big Pharma stock.

    1. The more LDL-C is reduced on statin therapy, the greater will be subsequent risk reduction. Use of a maximally tolerated statin to lower LDL-C levels by ≥50% is practiced We always think in terms of risk reduction therapy by statins and I don’t know how authors have reached this conclusion in a systematic review with so much htereogenity of studies. We do not put every patient on statins a patient between 50-75 yrs of DM HTN moderate intensity statins has to be added.A person with No DM and HTN perhaps coronary artery calcium score would help us. Sensalization of some studies is absolutely preposterous and horrendous and not helping science at all Publishers should discourage articles that are being made to make some great news and abstain from fringe reporting.

  3. Your cholesterol level has little to do with heart disease. I will continue to take my statin and monitor my LDL, exercise and try to eat correctly. You can do what you want. I would suggest that the real evidence isn’t in yet as we have conflicting studies.

  4. Yep, pharmaceutical companies and FDA lie with fake studies and their drug pushers (doctors) push unsafe, ineffective drugs for rewards to unsuspecting patients to harm them or kill them. Statin drugs are garbage that harm people. The fake vaccines are the most murderous example of this organized crime.

  5. Change 2 different statins. Omg joint pain unbearable. Gonna stop having . Absolutely terrible..

  6. There are zero statistics in the article so it’s useless. For instance, offer a ratio of heart attacks and/or heart disease to LDL, HDL, and overall cholesterol levels that show the reader a correlation or something with math involved.

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