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More on Statins

 

What do statins actually do?

We have been keeping you up to date on the continuing debate on whether statins are good for us or not.

With seven million plus people in the UK mainly in our age group already taking statins, this is a key area of interest for most of us.

The latest news this week is advice from a group of leading doctors and academics saying that new proposals to extend the use of statins should be scrapped. It emphasized the fact that some of the trials on statins had been sponsored by interested parties and grossly underestimated the adverse effects that can be caused by statins.

There are reports in several media highlighting specific cases of people who have undergone serious side effects after being prescribed statins.

But among seven million people, clearly there would be some who will experience problems; and according to other leading medical professionals, statins are a safe effective drug which should not be ignored. Mike Knapton of the British Heart Foundation is one of the supporters who say the idea to extend the use of statins to possibly another five million people is a good idea.

Next month NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, is expected to publish new guidelines on statins; but in the meantime it is worth revisiting statins and understanding exactly what they are and what they do.

Statins are all about the cholesterol in our body. In April 2011 (find this story through putting “cholesterol” in our search box at the top right of our home page) we published full information about cholesterol but briefly this is a fat that everyone makes in their body and is found in every one of our millions of cells. It is essential for normal good health. Cholesterol is very complex though; there is good and bad cholesterol, both carried around our body by lipoproteins.

To keep it very simple, high density lipoprotein (HDL) are molecules that carry cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver where it is broken down or passed out of the body. Low density lipoprotein (LDL) carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells. When there is more cholesterol than the body needs, this surplus cholesterol remains in the blood where it travels around the body and can build up in various artery walls and narrow their flow. This narrowing of the arteries can increase the risks of strokes and heart attacks.

Statins work by curbing the production of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the liver. It actually blocks an enzyme that is involved in the production of cholesterol.
The big question which is not in the news at the moment is what can be done to lower the cholesterol that has already built up in our arteries over the years. Eight years ago a doctor at Cleveland Clinic in America issued a report that was considered ground breaking at the time - that a specific cholesterol lowering statin drug could actually help clear plaque out of fat-clogged heart arteries.

The report found that if cholesterol is reduced to very low levels and kept there for two years, plaque can be removed and therefore the risk of coronary artery disease can be reduced.

Since then, while research is going on, little has been mentioned on this area yet this is key to many people of our age group.

Laterlife will keep you as up to date as possible on new reports on this vital area as well as the general ongoing debate on statins.


If you would like more detailed information on all this that is not fogged by medical phraseology have a look at the following resources:


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The above article is part of the features section of laterlife.com called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to laterlife.com written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

It includes both one off articles and also associated regular columns of a more specialist nature such as Healthwise, Gardener's Diary, our regular IT question and answer section called YoucandoIT and there's also 'It could be you' by Maggi Stamp laterlife's counsellor on human relationships. 

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