Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, and statins are one of the most common methods for preventing it. However, not many women-specific studies on statins exist.
Two researchers recently conducted a review of previous trials to see how statins have affected women specifically. They looked at trials that tested statins in women who had not yet developed heart disease.
They found that statins were effective in preventing heart disease in women. Although some side effects were reported, the researchers claimed that the benefit of statins were worth the risk.
Nkechinyere Ijioma, MBBS, and Jennifer G. Robinson, MD, MPh, conducted this review to see if statins were effective in preventing heart disease in women.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three women die from heart disease, making it the leading cause of death among women.
Risk factors for heart disease include older age, smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Statins are a type of medication that have been used to prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol. Statins limit the body's ability to produce cholesterol. However, they have previously been linked to an increased risk for diabetes.
Although numerous studies have evaluated the effectiveness of statins on the general population, the authors of this review said that there is a need for more research on how statins affect women specifically.
To learn more about how statins affect women, the researchers reviewed previous trials involving heart disease prevention, statins and women who did not yet have heart disease.
The researchers looked at 13 studies that had been published between 1990 and October 2012 and that included sex-specific data. They noted instances of death, death from heart disease, heart disease-related events and other risks.
The researchers found that statins were linked to a decrease in cholesterol and a proportional decrease in heart disease-related events like stroke. In trials that tested moderate- and high-intensity statins, cholesterol was reduced by 32 to 50 percent more than by low- or moderate-intensity statins.
In one study, women taking statins were 25 percent less likely to develop coronary heart disease than women who did not take statins.
Additionally, most of the trials showed that statins were associated with a reduction in death from all causes.
One study compared a group that was given low-dose statins and a diet plan to participants who only adjusted their diets. Death among women in the statins-with-diet-adjustment group was reduced by 41 percent compared to the diet-only group.
The review also addressed the risk of diabetes that may come with taking statins. Although some studies did link statins to more cases of diabetes, the researchers emphasized that the risk was low and the benefits of statins were worth it.
The researchers concluded that the evidence supports the use of statins for prevention of heart disease among women with a high risk of developing high cholesterol and heart disease.
In addition, they said that non-drug therapies like exercise, a healthy diet and quitting smoking should be the first line of defense against heart disease.
This study was published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine on October 16.
The researchers did not disclose funding sources or conflicts of interest.