Statins Cut Heart-Attack Risk In Women
For the first time ever, a new study is providing direct evidence that cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins can prevent heart attacks, strokes and deaths among women.
The study, released Sunday at the American Heart Association's conference in New Orleans, found that statins can cut heart attacks and strokes by about half -- even among people with normal cholesterol levels.
About 40 percent of the study's participants were women, making it the first large-scale study of its kind that included a significant number of women.
"This study is remarkable news for women," said Phyllis Greenberger, M.S.W., president and CEO of the Society for Women's Health Research, a Washington, D.C., based advocacy organization. "It shows statins could help far more women than anyone ever thought. This truly is a breakthrough study."
The study followed about 18,000 men and women with normal cholesterol levels - but with elevated levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation that indicates a risk for heart disease. None had a history of heart disease.
The study involved participants taking a daily dose of a statin called rosuvastatin. The trial had been scheduled to continue for four years, but the results were so positive that the study was halted after less than two years.
"This should change the way that doctors screen women for their risk for heart disease," Greenberger said. "Even if your cholesterol level is normal, you're not automatically safe. Half of heart attacks strike those with normal cholesterol levels."
The Society for Women's Health Research has been working to educate women about the dangers of high cholesterol. The organization sponsored a survey last year that found adult women are more than twice as likely to know how much they weighed in high school as they are to know their cholesterol number, and only about half of women have had a cholesterol test in the past year.
The survey found that 79 percent of women know how much they weighed in high school but less than one-third know their cholesterol number. Of the women who had a recent cholesterol test, only 57 percent could actually recall their cholesterol number.
Data from the survey suggested a major disconnect between women understanding the risks associated with high cholesterol and actually taking action to monitor and control it.
"All of this suggests that women should learn more about preventing heart disease," Greenberger said.