Statin users at risk of ‘cardiovascular disease’

High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips

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Despite statins being effective at lowering cholesterol levels, an unchanged lifestyle could mean patients are still at risk of life-threatening strokes or heart attacks. Research shows that even with the introduction of statin therapy, “many individuals remain at a much higher risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease”. The conclusion came from a 2019 study printed in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) by researchers based at the University of Nottingham.

They looked at 165,411 patients who had high cholesterol but were free from cardiovascular disease, before statin initiation.

Based on current national guidelines, less than a 40 percent reduction in baseline low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) is considered a “sub-optimal statin response”.

The results found that 51.2 percent of patients had a sub-optimal response to initiated statin therapy within two years.

During a six-year follow-up period, there were 22,798 cardiovascular events.

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Holly Roper – the nutrition manager at Raisio – commented on statin intervention and the research.

While statins have had “a significant impact on the heart health of many… there is no one-size-fits-all approach” via “pharmacological interventions such as statins or ezetimibe”.

How do statins work?

Heart UK, the leading cholesterol charity, explains: “Statins work by slowing down the production of [low-density lipoprotein] LDL-cholesterol in the liver, where it’s made.

“Because the liver isn’t making so much cholesterol, it then takes cholesterol out of your blood to make bile with, so your blood cholesterol levels fall.”

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Statins work by blocking the HMG-CoA-Reductase enzyme that speeds up the production of LDL cholesterol.

If you take statins, to get the most benefit from taking the medication, the charity has some top tips.

  • Take statins every day at the same time
  • If you forget to take a tablet, don’t take an extra one the next day
  • Avoid grapefruit juice
  • Speak to your doctor if you are experiencing side effects.

Heart UK adds: “Keep looking after your health by eating healthily, being active, watching what you drink and stopping smoking if you smoke.

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“Statins can lower your cholesterol but they will work better if your lifestyle is healthy too.”

Holly said “the use of plant stanol ester products should also be considered” when it comes to managing cholesterol levels.

“Plant stanols reduce cholesterol absorption,” Holly affirmed, who said they can be used in combination with statins.

Heart UK confirmed that sterols and stanols do work in lowering cholesterol levels.

“There is very strong scientific evidence from many human clinical controlled trials that sterols and stanols reduce blood cholesterol levels,” the charity says.

Adding that they “can be used to reduce cholesterol levels as part of a healthy diet”.

Raiso produces Benecol® and plant stanol ester solutions, and plant-based foods.

Brands include Benecol®, Beanit®, Elovena®, Sunnuntai® and Torino®.

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