THURSDAY, Sept. 7, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Cholesterol-lowering statins reduce the risk of heart disease and death in otherwise healthy people who have very high levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, a long-term study finds.
For 20 years, more than 5,500 men in Scotland who did not have heart disease but who had high levels of LDL took 40 milligrams of pravastatin, a relatively weak type of statin, daily. Doing so reduced their overall risk of death by 18 percent, the risk of death from heart disease by 28 percent, and the risk of death from other cardiovascular diseases by 25 percent.
"For the first time, we show that statins reduce the risk of death in this specific group of people who appear largely healthy, except for very high LDL levels," said study senior author Dr. Kausik Ray, a professor in the School of Public Health at Imperial College London.
The findings challenge taking a "watch-and-wait" approach in younger patients with elevated LDL levels, according to the researchers. They said even people with slightly elevated cholesterol have a higher long-term risk of heart disease.
"This is the strongest evidence yet that statins reduce the risk of heart disease and death in men with high LDL," Ray said in a college news release.
"Our study lends support to LDL's status as a major driver of heart disease risk, and suggests that even modest LDL reductions might offer significant mortality benefits in the long term," Ray concluded.
The study was published Sept. 6 in the journal Circulation.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on cholesterol and statins.