HEART attacks can be a symptom of heart disease. However, experts have now reveal statins, a group of medicines which are prescribed by GPs to lower the level of bad – or LDL – cholesterol in the blood, can also reduce risk.
A new study has revealed statins can reduce the thickness of the heart – which experts say is a good predictor of future heart attack risk.
The research by scientists at Queen Mary University of London, suggest statins improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and reduce stress on the heart.
The most common cause of cardiovascular disease is the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries – a process called atherolsclerosis, which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.
Heart attacks can cause an uncomfortable tightness or heaviness in the chest, rather than a sharp stabbing pain.
They can also cause shortness of breath, sweating, and pain in the arm.
Researchers investigating the link between statins and the heart considered data from more than 4,500 participants, who did not have heart disease.
They looked at MRI scans to assess the volume and mass of the heart.
Medical records – and results from questionnaires, found 17 per cent were prescribed statins – and these people were older, had higher blood pressure, higher body mass index and were more likely to have diabetes. However, this was not a surprising find, the researchers said.
The study found patients taking statins had a 2.4 per cent lower left ventricular mass and lower left and right ventricular volumes.
Dr Aung said people taking statins were less likely to have thickened heart muscle.
They were also less likely to have a large heart chamber.
Dr Nay Aung, a cardiologist at the William Harvey Research Institute said: “Statins are primarily used to lower cholesterol.
“They are highly effective in preventing cardiovascular events in patients who have had a heart attack or are at risk of heat disease.”
“Statins have other beneficial, non-cholesterol lowering, effects.
“They can improve the function of the blood vessels, reduce inflammation, and stabilise fatty plaques in the blood vessels.
“Studies in mice and small studies in humans have shown that statins also reduce the thickness of heart muscle but this needed to be confirmed in a larger study.”
Having a thicker, larger heart is a strong predictor of future heart attacks and strokes, the expert said.
Taking statins can reverse the negative changes in the heart, he added.
However, Dr Aung added: ”It is important to note that in our study, the people taking statins were at higher risk of having heart problems than those not using statins yet they still had positive heart remodelling compared to the healthier control group.”
The experts said the findings should not automatically mean the drugs should be prescribed to any one over the age of 40, but said patients should be analysed on an individual basis.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Prague.