Are Statins Necessary for Middle-Aged People with High Cholesterol?

A new study suggests that middle-aged people with high cholesterol should take statins even if they have no other risk factors for heart disease.

“Low risk” people in their 40s with high levels of LDL cholesterol, or bad cholesterol, were at greater risk of dying from heart disease over the next 30 years. Even those with only slightly raised levels – between 100-to-159 mg per deciliter (dL) – were up to 40 per cent more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke.

University of Texas Southwestern researchers found this increased to around 80 per cent for those with high LDL cholesterol levels (160 mg/dL). The findings remained true for patients even if they were a healthy weight and had no family history of the disease. The optimal LDL cholesterol reading is 60 mg/dL.

The trial opens up the controversial statins debate, with some experts arguing the cholesterol-lowering drugs should be more broadly prescribed. However, others claim the cheap pills are being unnecessarily ‘medicalised’ and offer no medical benefit.

Lead author Dr Shuaib Abdullah, from the University of Texas Southwestern, said: “Those with low risk should pursue lifestyle interventions, such as diet and exercise, to achieve LDLs levels as low as possible, preferably under 100 mg/dL. Limiting saturated fat intake, maintaining a healthy weight, discontinuing tobacco use and increasing aerobic exercise should apply to everyone.”