Statins, are tremendously popular cholesterol-lowering drugs that can lower the risk of cardiovascular incidents such as heart attacks or strokes in patients. But a group of researchers has found another health benefit: the medications could shield people with high cholesterol and narrowed leg arteries from amputation.
The findings were presented this week at the American Heart Association gathering in Nashville, in Tennessee,
r. Shipra Arya, lead author of the study and researcher at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA, and colleagues sifted through the medical records of more than 200,000 veterans diagnosed with peripheral artery disease (PAD), an aging-related circulatory condition in which narrowed blood vessels cause poor blood flows to the patient’s limbs.
Dr. Arya believes that the disease will soon gain the status of an epidemic in the U.S., so it calls for immediate intervention. The condition is often triggered by plaque buildups within the arteries that block the blood flow to the legs, arms, and head. Yet, the most affected by PAD are the legs.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) statistics, about 8 million Americans are affected by PAD. CDC researchers found that up to 20 percent of seniors aged 60 or older are diagnosed with the disease.
Dr. Arya’s team divided the veterans into three groups. The first group was given high doses of statins, the second group received moderate doses, while the third group was given a placebo.
After more than five years, doctors noted that the first group had 33 percent lower risk of leg amputations than their peers in the placebo group. The first group also had 29 percent reduced chances of premature death due to PAD than the control group.
The research team concluded that high doses of cholesterol-lowering statins can improve the chances of survival of PAD patients and prevent limb amputation. Dr. Arya believes that clinicians should place PAD patients on high doses of statins as soon as they get diagnosed with the condition.
Patients who can tolerate the therapy are also recommended to quit smoking and get involved in walking programs and antiplatelet therapies.
Statins have often been linked with a 35 percent lower risk of heart attack and premature death.
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