NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Results of a new study indicate that the so-called statin drugs used to lower cholesterol levels also help prevent chaotic heart beats that can lead to sudden cardiac death.
The study shows that statins are “associated with a significant 19 percent risk reduction for sudden cardiac death.”
Sudden cardiac death is caused when the heart stops beating suddenly or goes into a disorganized rhythm, or arrhythmia, that cannot sustain blood flow. In contrast, a heart attack occurs when an artery supplying blood to the heart muscle becomes blocked and the heart can no longer pump properly.
Dr. Giacomo Levantesi and colleagues at Consorzio Mario Negri Sud in Chieti, Italy, analyzed data from 10 large studies, involving 22,275 patients, looking at treatment with statins -- drugs like Lipitor or Zocor, for example -- and that included information on the occurrence of sudden cardiac death.
Over an average follow-up of 4.4 years, the likelihood of sudden cardiac death was 3 percent in patients given statins and 3.8 percent in “control” patients, the researchers report in The American Journal of Cardiology.
The reduction in risk of sudden cardiac death was independent of changes in cholesterol levels.
The Italian researchers conclude that “part of the clinical benefit of statin treatment could be represented by a decrease in life-threatening arrhythmias.”
SOURCE: American Journal of Cardiology, December 2007.