Patients who take statins after suffering a heart attack or stroke are almost 25 per cent less likely to have another one or to die early, a study found.
And those on the strongest dose are a fifth less likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those on weakest.
American scientists said yesterday that their findings provide compelling evidence that statins ‘work’ and should be offered to many more patients.
But they said many patients were not being offered the pills by their doctors even after suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Around six million adults in the UK are currently taking statins although experts say another six million ‘high risk’ patients should be on them.
They cost 3p a day and lower the levels of bad cholesterol, preventing the build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels.
But both doctors and patients are worried about their long-term harms and they have been linked to diabetes, severe muscle pain and memory problems.
The US study was carried out by researchers at the Intermountain Medical Centre Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, in Utah.
They examined the records of 62,000 patients who had suffered a heart attack or stroke between 1999 and 2013.
Researchers noted whether they were taking statins and the dose and then monitored them for a period of three years or until their death.
The research was presented yesterday at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, in Anaheim, California.
Lead researcher Dr Jeffrey Anderson said: ‘Patients who were prescribed a statin following an initial heart attack or stroke reduced their risk of a future heart attack, stroke, revascularization [heart bypass surgery or putting in a stent], or death, by almost 25 per cent – the rate dropped from 34 per cent to 26 per cent. The patients who were discharged on a high-intensity dose of a statin saw a 21 per cent reduction in their risk than those discharged on a low-intensity statin dose.
‘We noted that patients who’d just experienced a major cardiovascular event weren’t always prescribed a statin, and others didn’t have doses that were high enough to provide optimal outcomes.
‘Statins work, and routinely prescribing a statin and the optimal dose for the patient will help improve outcomes by lowering risk of a repeat heart attack, stroke or revascularization procedure.’
Simon Williams, of the British cholesterol charity Heart UK, said statins were a ‘no-brainer’ – but that they were not offered to many heart attack patients.
‘Cardiologists tend to – not all the time – fix the heart attack, put a stent in and send the patient home,’ he said. ‘The patient is under the impression that it’s all fixed, and that’s far from true.’
People who suffer a heart attack during sex have a very low survival rate because their partner does not know how to revive them using chest compressions, the conference heard.
Researchers who studied cases of cardiac arrests – where the heart stops beating – during sex found that 80 per cent of these patients died in hospital.
In only one in three cases studied at a hospital in Portland, Oregon, was the victim’s partner able to perform CPR.