Both men and women who survive a heart attack or stroke benefit from taking statins—cholesterol-lowering medications—to help prevent a secondary cardiovascular event, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Jose Gutierrez, a stroke neurologist at Columbia University in New York, and his colleagues performed a meta-analysis of 11 clinical trials involving 43,193 patients to see if statins prevent a secondary cardiovascular event as effectively in women as they do in men. Other research has shown that statins are not as effective in warding off a stroke or heart attack among women.
The study found that men and women taking statins:
- Were 19% less likely to have a combination of heart problems, including strokes, heart attacks, or a heart disease-related death;
- Had a 7% chance of a second heart attack, in comparison to 10% who took placebos; and
- Had a 26 point drop in their cholesterol levels, in comparison to just three points for those who took placebos.
Some discrepancies remain
Statin therapy had a more positive effect on men, the researchers found. Men enjoyed a 19% lower risk of stroke, and 21% lower risk of all-cause mortality.
Meanwhile, researchers did not observe a statistically significant reduction among women. Only one-fifth of study participants were women, however, which the researchers note may have skewed results. Furthermore, the women in the trial were found to take other risk-reducing medications—such as aspirin—less often and may have been sicker.
Dennis Ko, a cardiologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, told Reuters that although women do not significantly reduce their all-cause mortality risk, the overall benefit for secondary prevention is relatively "consistent for men and women" (Pittman, Reuters, 6/25; Phend, American Medical News, 6/25).