40-Point Cholesterol Drop=20% Lower Heart Risk
Heart Disease Protection Tied to Cholesterol Reduction Achieved With Drugs
Sept. 27, 2005 -- The heart disease protection offered by popular cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may be directly related to the degree they actually lower a person's cholesterol levels.
A new review of studies on statins shows that regardless of a person's initial LDL level, for every 40-point drop in "bad" LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol sustained over a five-year period, the use of statins reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other heart-related complications by nearly 20%.
The results show that the reduction in heart disease risk was consistent in studies involving more than 90,000 people -- almost half of whom had pre-existing heart disease. The study shows that this reduction was achieved largely without regard to how high the person's initial cholesterol levels were or their other heart disease risk factors.
Researchers say many studies have shown that lowering LDL cholesterol with drugs can reduce the risk of heart disease. But this study quantifies that reduction in risk in a broad range of people and shows that long-term treatment with statins is necessary in people at risk for heart disease to sustain these benefits.
Statins' Heart Disease Benefits Quantified
In the study, researchers reviewed 14 major studies of statins to determine the benefits of treatment in reducing the risk of heart attack, stroke, other heart disease-related complication, and death over five years.
The results showed that for approximately every 40-point drop in LDL achieved with statin therapy, there was a corresponding 10% reduction in risk of heart-related complications in the first year of treatment. But that reduction in heart disease risk rose to 20%-30% in each successive year of treatment.
Analyzing the data at the end of five years, the researchers show that the overall risk of heart-related problems was reduced by about 20% for each 40-point drop in LDL cholesterol.
In particular, the nearly 40-point decrease in LDL cholesterol levels achieved with statin treatment was associated with the following benefits:
- 12% reduced risk of death due to any cause
- 19% reduction in heart-related death
- 23% reduced risk of heart attack
- 24% reduction in the need for heart surgery to restore blood flow to the heart (coronary revascularization)
- 17% reduced risk of stroke
Researchers say there have been conflicting reports about how soon the benefits of cholesterol-lowering statin treatment emerge, with some studies showing few immediate benefits within one year of treatment.
But they say the results of this study show there was a significant 10% reduction in risk for major heart events during the first year of treatment and those benefits increased over time.
The findings appear in the Sept. 27 online edition of The Lancet.