Attack (Myocardial Infarction)
Cholesterol Lowering Drugs for Survival after a Heart Attack
In a study underscoring the benefits of the quick use of statins (Pravachol and Lipitor), Swedish researchers found that giving cholesterol-lowering drugs to heart attack patients in the hospital can substantially improve their chances of survival.
The study, published in the Jan. 24, 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, involved 19,599 patients. Those who were given statins at or before their release from the hospital were about 25 percent less likely to die within a year than those who did not receive the drugs.
Statins are a class of drugs that reduce levels of cholesterol. Excess cholesterol can cause fatty plaque buildups along artery walls. Heart attacks occur when pieces of plaque break off and clog an artery. Statins may also reduce inflammation that occurs when plaque forms.
Doctors usually wait a month or two to prescribe statins for heart attack patients because the attacks can cause inaccurate cholesterol readings. The Swedish researchers said their findings suggest that statins can also help when used soon after an attack, when the plaque might still be unstable.
"It still has good effects in patients that survive the first three months and then are put on statins, but it looks like we can prevent a lot of patients from dying during the first three months" as well, said Dr. Ulf Stenestrand, a cardiologist at University Hospital of
Another study presented in the American Heart Association meeting suggested that victims of mild heart attacks are more likely to survive if given statins early.