The benefits of statins may be more far-reaching than
previously thought, according to research presented at EuroCMR 2017 last week.
Although statins are primarily used to lower cholesterol, the medication has
other beneficial, non-cholesterol lowering effects that can prevent
cardiovascular events in patients who have had a heart attack or are at risk
for heart disease.
The researchers determined that stains can improve the function of blood vessels, reduce inflammation, and stabilize fatty plaques in the blood vessels. Statin use was linked to a 2.4% lower left ventricular mass and lower left and right ventricular volumes. Those taking statins were also less likely to have a thickened heart and a large heart chamber, which is often indicative of future heart attack, heart failure, stroke risk. Statins also appeared to reverse the negative changes in the heart.
A study published in 2007 reviewed the results of several clinical trials that involved angioplasty patients taking statins. It found that CRP levels were at least as helpful as bad cholesterol levels in predicting patients’ risk of recurrent heart events.
- Antiviral and Antibacterial Effects
One of the more surprising effects of statin use has been its apparent bug-fighting properties. A 2004 Canadian study found that statins suppressed the attachment of the HIV virus to potential host cells.
In 2006, a Canadian study examined the rate of sepsis, a deadly blood infection, among patients who had been hospitalized for heart events. In the two years after their hospitalization, the statin users had a rate of sepsis 19% lower than that of the non-statin users.
Studies found that statins appeared to have a beneficial effect on the outcome of infection, but they couldn’t come to a firm conclusion. It is also found helpful to treat pneumonia and the death rate was found to be more than twice for people who were not using statins.
- Statins May Lower Blood Pressure Slightly
Statin use also appears to decrease blood pressure, although just modestly, which is not significant enough to rival existing blood pressure medications.
A British study in 2007 reported that among statin users, readings were reduced by an average of 1.9 mmHg for systolic blood pressure and 0.9 mmHg for diastolic blood pressure. In patients whose blood pressure started very high, statins appeared to produce a 4.0 mmHg drop in systolic pressure.
- Lessening Atrial Fibrillation After Heart Surgery
Atrial Fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat that commonly occurs after heart surgery. This can lead to longer hospital stays or even strokes or heart failure. In a 2006 study, patients who were given a week-long course of statins before surgery had a 61% lower risk of AF.
- Treat Neurological Damage
Another growing area of scientific interest in statin drugs is their potential to treat neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Further research is needed to validate this potential function of statin drugs and to pinpoint the precise mechanism of action
It has been concluded that a dual approach should be considered to identify individuals who will benefit most from statins, which means looking at both clinical risk factors and genetic factors that can predict an individual’s response to statins as well.