Knowledge is Immunity at its Best

People with Type 2 Diabetes are always in danger of an early death if their sugar level is not properly contained. I suffer from this awful predicament and although I have never experienced a heart problem so far, I’m always curious to find out how to ensure that my heart will see me through the next few years without any serious complications.

So you can imagine my interest in reading that a high dose of statins slashes the risk of a heart attack by up to 30% compared with normal strength tablets, a major study has found. American researchers say there is a substantial opportunity to prevent more deaths through wider use of stronger pills.

Most patients on statins take a dose of between 5 and 40 mg per day depending on the type of tablet. But the US study which involved 500,000 adults looked at patients who had been taking doses of up to 80 mg daily. Doctors are reluctant to prescribe the strongest pills unless patients have a very high risk of heart attack and strokes because the side effects are more severe.

These commonly include muscle tissue damage – and tenderness and soreness – and there is some evidence that statins harm the kidneys. Researchers from Stanford University in California looked at 509,766 adults who were given statins to treat a common type of heart disease. Known as atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease or ASCVD, it is caused by the blood vessels becoming clogged with fatty deposits.

Some 30% of the group were classified as being on high intensity statin-therapy, 46% on moderate doses and the remainder on low intensity levels. The high intensity group were found to be 20% less likely to die in a year than those on the moderate dose.

Compared with the low dose group they had 29% less risk of dying within a year. Dr Paul Heidenreich whose study is published in the journal JAMA Cardiology, said ‘These findings suggest there is a substantial opportunity for improvement in the secondary prevention of ASCVD through optimisation of intensity of statin therapy.’

An estimated 6 million adults in Britain are thought to be taking statins to prevent heart attacks and strokes. The drugs cost less than 6p per day and work by reducing the level of cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol causes fatty deposits to build up in blood vessels. But there has been widespread controversy over statin safety with some experts claiming that the risks outweigh the benefits.

Common side effects include severe muscle pain, Type 2 Diabetes, kidney damage, liver failures and even death. The Stanford University study classified high intensity statins as being between 40 and 80 mg of atorvastatin, 20-40 mg of rosuvastatin or 80 mg of simvastatin.

Professor Jeremy Pearson associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation said: ‘Heart disease is incurable. We have no way of reversing the furring of the arteries that can lead to a deadly heart attack or stroke.

‘But decades of this research, much of it funded by the British Heart Foundation, showed that statins can help save lives by slowing the progression of the disease. This last study shows that more intensive statin treatment reduces death rates further than low intensity or no treatment in people with cardiovascular disease. While the research confirms the greater benefits of more intensive treatment, decisions on dosage require conversation between patients and their doctor.’

A major study in the Lancet this year said that statins prevented 80,000 heart attacks and strokes a year in the UK, and claimed the benefits by far outweigh the risks. But the confusion intensified a week later when a rival medical journal, the BMJ, insisted the pills were not as safe as that research had claimed.

As I said at the outset, it is always prudent to be well-informed about health matters, especially with the onset of old age and being classified as a Type 2 diabetic. Knowledge in these matters enables you to conform to a healthy regime and avoid excesses, particularly in what you eat.

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