Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Cholesterol & Triglycerides Health Center

Font Size

Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Also Good for Bones

36% Less Risk of Broken Bones in Men Taking Statins
By
WebMD Health News

Sept. 26, 2005 -- Compelling new evidence suggests that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs cut the risk of broken bones.

Some 12 million Americans take statins to control their cholesterol. Several studies have suggested that the drugs may also prevent bone loss.

Now a large Veterans Administration study of more than 91,000 men over three and a half years offers compelling evidence that statins may indeed benefit bones.

"This finding is particularly important because millions of people suffer from fractures that potentially could be prevented, to some extent, by a therapy that's so commonly used," study leader Richard E. Scranton, MD, of Boston's Massachusetts Veterans Epidemiology Information Center, says in a news release.

Statins vs. Nonstatins vs. Nothing

Nobody knows exactly why statins might be good for bones. There are several ideas, all of which make biological sense even though none is proven.

Whatever the reason, Scranton and colleagues gathered data on men prescribed statins, on similar men prescribed different cholesterol drugs, and on similar men not taking any cholesterol drugs.

Those who took statins had 36% fewer fractures than the men not taking cholesterol drugs. They also had 32% fewer fractures than men taking nonstatin cholesterol drugs.

That's a big potential benefit -- one that needs to be proven, Scranton says.

"The need is too great to ignore this finding, particularly when we consider that one class of drugs could potentially reduce the suffering from two common conditions plaguing our society: heart attacks and bone fractures," he says.

The findings appear in the Sept. 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Bone-Breaking Disease

Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones, increasing the risk of sudden and unexpected fractures. Women are four times more likely than men to develop osteoporosis.

Many times, osteoporosis is not discovered until weakened bones cause potentially debilitating fractures, usually in the back or hips.

Until about age 30, a person normally builds more bone than he or she loses. During the aging process, bone breakdown begins to outpace bone buildup, resulting in a gradual loss of bone mass. Once this loss of bone reaches a certain point, a person has osteoporosis.

5 Steps to Saving Your Bones

  • Exercise. Exercise makes bones and muscles stronger and helps prevent bone loss. It also helps you stay active and mobile. Weight-bearing exercises, done at least three to four times a week, are best for preventing osteoporosis. Walking, jogging, playing tennis, and dancing are all good weight-bearing exercises.
  • Eat foods high in calcium. Getting enough calcium throughout your life helps to build and keep strong bones. The recommended dietary allowance for adults with a low to average risk of developing osteoporosis is 1,000 milligrams each day. For those at high risk of developing osteoporosis, such as postmenopausal women, the RDA increases to 1,500 milligrams each day. Excellent sources of calcium are milk and dairy products (low-fat versions are recommended), canned fish with bones like salmon and sardines, dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, collards, and broccoli, calcium-fortified orange juice, and breads made with calcium-fortified flour.
  • Calcium. Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are good forms of calcium supplements. Be careful not to get more than 2,000 milligrams of calcium a day very often. That amount can increase your chance of developing kidney problems.
  • Vitamin D. Your body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium. Being in the sun for 20 minutes every day helps most people's bodies make enough vitamin D. You can also get vitamin D from eggs, fatty fish like salmon, cereal, and milk fortified with vitamin D, as well as from supplements. People aged 51 to 70 should get 400 international units each day and those over age 70 should get 600 international units. More than 2,000 international units of vitamin D each day is not recommended because it may harm your kidney and even lower bone mass.
  • Alcohol, Smoking. Smoking causes your body to make less estrogen, which protects the bones. Too much alcohol can damage your bones and increase your risk of falling and breaking a bone.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

Get the latest Cholesterol Management newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

cholesterol lab test report
Article
Compressed heart
Article
 
Compressed heart
Article
chocolate glazed donut and avocado
SLIDESHOW
 
Heart Foods Slideshow
Slideshow
Cholesterol Fact or Fiction
Quiz
 
Food & Fitness Planner
TOOL
Attractive salad
ARTICLE
 
Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
worst sandwich slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Fat Foods Fit Foods
SLIDESHOW
Bad Cholesterol
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections