Millions of Americans take statin drugs to lower cholesterol and reduce their heart disease risks, raising questions in some health circles about whether they are overprescribed. But researchers have devised a new method that uses genetics to identify who is most likely to benefit from statins.
The new method, developed by Washington University scientists, is based on statistical analyses of heart attack risk among 49,000 people. Researchers factored in traditional heart disease risks like age, sex, cholesterol levels, smoking history, and diabetes to identify those at high risk for having a heart attack because of genetics, Fox News
According a study of the method, published in The Lancet, the high-risk group had a 70 percent greater chance of having a heart attack compared to those at the lowest genetic risk.
As a result, statins were deemed most helpful to those high-risk individuals — by improving cholesterol and lowering the likelihood of having a heart attack by 48 percent. Those deemed at intermediate risk for a heart attack had a 29 percent reduced risk, while those at low risk were found to have a 13 percent reduced risk.
“There is ongoing debate over which individuals should be allocated statin therapy to prevent a first heart attack,” said Nathan O. Stitziel, a Washington University cardiologist and human geneticist, in the news release. “Genetics appears to be one way to identify high-risk patients.”
The researchers analyzed 27 components of the study participants’ DNA code to calculate their genetic-risk score.
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued new guidelines in 2013 recommended statins be prescribed to an estimated 33 million Americans without heart disease who have at least a 7.5 percent risk for heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years.
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