Surprising Facts About Statins: Are They Miracle Drugs?


Surprising Facts About Statins: Are They Miracle Drugs?

Anyone with high cholesterol has probably talked with their doctor about taking statins. In case you’re unfamiliar, statins are a type of drug that block the enzyme that allows the liver to develop cholesterol. Since almost 70 percent of cholesterol is produced in that organ, statins help keep production under control to prevent the buildup of the fatty substance on the walls of the arteries, which contributes to cardiovascular disease.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly a quarter of all adults are taking statins, including  Canadian Lipitor and while that number may seem high, the drugs are doing what they are intended to do: Overall, levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol are down by an average of 30 percent, and the number of people dying of heart disease is declining. Of course, other factors, including greater awareness and more people quitting smoking, have played a role in the decrease in heart disease-related deaths, but overall, the increase in statin use shows that people are taking their heart health seriously.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly a quarter of all adults are taking statins, including Lipitor. And while that number may seem high, the drugs are doing what they are intended to do: Overall, levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol are down by an average of 30 percent, and the number of people dying of heart disease is declining. Of course, other factors, including greater awareness and more people quitting smoking, have played a role in the decrease in heart disease related deaths., but overall, the increase in statin use shows that people are taking their heart health seriously.

Improved Post-Surgical Healing Thanks to Statins

Undergoing major surgery can be difficult for many reasons, but many people dread going under the knife because they know that it can take days, week or even months to recover from the procedure. New research from Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland shows great promise when it comes to recovery times, though — and it’s all thanks to statins.

Undergoing major surgery can be difficult for many reasons, but many people dread going under the knife because they know that it can take days, week or even months to recover from the procedure. New research from Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland shows great promise when it comes to recovery times, though — and it’s all thanks to statins.

Scientists aren’t exactly sure why the statins had such a profound effect on healing speed, but are optimistic that the same results seen in the animal subjects will also take place in humans. Currently, statins are not approved for use in post-surgical wound healing, but after further study, it’s very possible that the drugs could become part of every post-op care plan.

Statins and Diabetes

When it comes to diabetes, there is some debate as to the role that statins play in the development and treatment of the disease. Studies show that statins in higher doses can increase the risk of diabetes by about 9 percent, in large part because it changes the way that the liver processes sugars and fats, potentially leading to problems managing blood glucose.

However, there is strong evidence that topical statins — those applied to the skin in a mixture of petroleum jelly — are quite effective in treating wounds, particularly in diabetics who have ulcers or a history of slow healing wounds, a common complication from the disease. In a clinical trial involving mice, a topical solution with simvastatin was applied to some wounds, while petroleum jelly only was applied to others. The mice with the statin solution had almost full healing — 80 percent — after seven days, while the others’ wounds were only 50 percent healed.

The researchers believe that the statins encouraged the formation of new lymphatic vessels and blood, which speed healing. However, as with the Irish study, doctors recommend caution, as the drugs have not been tested on human subjects. However, for diabetics living with ulcers and trouble with healing wounds, the research offers new hope.

Statins and Breast Cancer

A British study released in July 2014 confirmed what many doctors and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already suspected: Having high cholesterol increases the risk of developing breast cancer. In the study of more than half a million women, those with high levels of bad cholesterol, also known as hyperlipidemia, were more than one and a half times as likely to develop breast cancer as those who did not. These findings are supported by what we already knew, that obesity and being overweight significantly increases the chances of breast cancer. Since obesity and high cholesterol often go hand in hand, the new findings make sense.

However, doctors are quick to caution that the study results do not conclusively determine that high cholesterol causes breast cancer; the results only show a correlation, not a causal relationship. That being said, they note that the results provide further evidence that managing weight and cholesterol are vital to preventing serious disease, and suggest that perhaps taking statins can help reduce the risk of breast cancer.

There is still a great deal of research to be done regarding statins and their role in maintaining good health, but the signs are there and point to bigger and better things for the drugs in the future.