Do Statin Medications Provide Short-Term Heart Attack Prevention?

Statin medications are very well known or drastically lowering cholesterol levels and preventing heart disease. There are now over 30 million people in the U.S. that are prescribed statins. Since these drugs are well known for preventing cardiac issues in the future, it is easy to question whether they would work well for people that are at an immediate risk of having a heart attack.

A recent review of several studies had a goal of determining if statins were successful in preventing heart attacks in patients that were at risk of having one at any moment. It is understandable to think that statins could do this. While it is very clear that they are able to dramatically lower cholesterol levels, specifically the ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL), it has been observed that statins also reduce inflammation and prevent clots in arteries. These observations would make it seem that these drugs may be able to provide immediate protection against a heart attack.

Do Statin Medications Provide Short-Term Heart Attack Prevention?

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In order to determine the efficiency of statin medications with patients at immediately risk of a cardiac emergency, the review looked at studies that included patients that were hospitalized due to a heart attack or unstable angina. Another heart attack is very likely for these patients. In the studies, some patients were given statins within two weeks of being hospitalized while some were given placebos.

The outcome does not provide good evidence to suggest that statin medications can provide immediate heart attack prevention. The patients that were given statins saw the same amount of heart attacks and strokes over the four months following medication. There was no indication that these drugs helped to reduce the rate of a heart attack or stroke within the first four months of being prescribed.

This doesn’t mean we should discount statins altogether. Their long-term benefits are definitely well documented and they do wonders for people facing possible heart disease. This was exclaimed by the chairman of cardiovascular medication at Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Steven Nissen:

“This analysis focuses on such a short period of time, it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that it was difficult to see much of a difference. We give cholesterol-lowering drugs not to change short-term outcome, but long-term outcome: the purpose is to lower cardiovascular events over time.”

Not only should the long-term be a focus, but the review found that side effects were minimal for most of the statins used.  While one of them, simvastatin, showed some risk of myopathy the others used were actually fairly safe.  Therefore, it is pointed out that even though short-term protection may not be available it is best to start statin therapy as soon as possible.

Source: Health Behavior News Service