Cholesterol-lowering drugs are more likely to save thousands of additional lives when used in people with higher levels of LDL cholesterol, or "bad" cholesterol, according to a new study from the University of Iowa, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Statins are the safest drugs we have to reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death in a wide range of patients. Patients with higher LDL cholesterol levels are likely to experience even greater health benefits from taking statins and some of the newer cholesterol drugs.
The study analyzed 34 previous studies that involved more than 270,000 participants. The analysis found that statins were more likely to reduce the risk of death when LDL cholesterol levels were 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or greater, whether or not they were used with other LDL-lowering drugs.
Study found the lives of an additional 4.3 in 1,000 people were saved every year when treated with LDL cholesterol lowering therapy. The greatest benefit and the greatest reduction in death rates came to those with the highest levels of LDL cholesterol.
LDL cholesterol causes fat and plaque to build up in arteries, increasing the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Levels below 100 mg/dl are considered optimal, as people with that reading are less likely to develop cholesterol plaques as they age. Readings above 100 mg/dl are considered unhealthy.
Given that 12.4 percent of American adults or about 30 million people have LDL levels above 160 mg/dl, the findings show statins save tens of thousands of lives annually.