Researchers at the University of Oxford have found a novel drug that lowers cholesterol levels in the blood can also reduce the risk of heart attacks.
The results, published in the British Journal of Cardiology, may have implications for other drugs that can lower blood pressure or lower cholesterol.
In the study, researchers found that people taking the drug were less likely to have heart attacks or stroke.
“This is the first evidence of an effect in people with high cholesterol,” Dr John Coyle, from the university’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said.
“We found that this effect was very robust across different age groups, race and ethnicity.”
Dr Coyle and his colleagues analysed the blood of 6,200 people in the Oxford Cohort study from 2007 to 2015.
The researchers compared the people’s blood cholesterol levels to those of healthy controls aged 18-29 and 30-49, to determine if people taking a cholesterol lowering drug could reduce the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke in those at high risk of it.
The researchers then compared those with the drug to people without it.
“We didn’t see any difference in heart attack rates,” Dr Coyle said.
The researchers found the drug was effective at lowering cholesterol levels from the level of a normal person.
A drug that reduces cholesterol is a potential way to lower the risk that people who already have high cholesterol levels could develop high blood pressure and heart disease.
The drug used in the study is known as statins, and it’s the most common form of medicine used to treat high blood cholesterol.
Dr Peter Whitehead, an obesity expert from the University College London, said statins had been shown to lower cholesterol in animals.
“There are some animal studies that show a decrease in cholesterol levels and heart attack risk, but it’s really not yet proven in humans,” Dr Whitehead said.
A study published in November found that one statin drug, called dithrin, reduced the risk in patients with high blood pressures and cardiovascular disease by more than 50 per cent.
But the drug has a range of side effects, including weight gain and stomach problems, and many doctors do not prescribe it.
Dr Cylvan said the research was interesting, but not yet conclusive.
“It’s not yet clear whether statins have a benefit in people who have high blood and heart risk, or whether it’s an effect that might be different to the ones seen in people without high cholesterol.”
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