Link between bad cholesterol & cardiovascular disease weak; Study

By Amirtha P S, Desk Reporter
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In a recent study, the researchers at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences have found that the connection between ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL-C) and poor health outcomes, like heart attack and stroke, may not be as strong as previously thought.

The study, published in the journal ‘JAMA Internal Medicine’, also questions the efficacy of statins when prescribed to lower LDL-C and therefore reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

An earlier study suggested that using statins to lower LDL-C positively affects health outcomes, and this is reflected in the various iterations of expert guidelines for the prevention of CVD. Statins are now commonly prescribed by doctors, with one-third of Irish adults over the age of 50 taking statins.

However, the new study contradicts this theory, by revealing that this relationship was not as strong as previously thought. The research demonstrates that lowering LDL-C using statins had an inconsistent and inconclusive impact on CVD outcomes like myocardial infarction (MI), stroke, and all-cause mortality.

Further, the study indicates that the overall benefit of taking statins may be small and will vary depending on an individual’s personal risk factors.

The lead author of the paper, Dr. Paula Byrne from the HRB Centre for Primary Care Research based in RCSI’s Department of General Practice, said, “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.”

The researchers also suggest that this updated information should be communicated to patients through informed clinical decision-making and updated clinical guidelines and policy.

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