TUESDAY, Nov. 27 (HealthDay News) -- People who exercise along
with taking statins to lower their high cholesterol levels can
dramatically reduce their risk of dying, a large new study
"The reduction in death is independent; whatever statins do is independent of what exercise does," said lead researcher Peter Kokkinos, a professor in the cardiology department at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
"When you combine the two, you get even better results," he said. "If you are taking statins, your mortality is about 35 percent lower versus not taking statins, but if you exercise, your mortality level decreases as your fitness level increases to the point where you can reach a 70 percent reduction in mortality."
Kokkinos is talking about regular moderate exercise -- not
vigorous workouts. "Thirty minutes a day of brisk walking -- not a
whole lot," he said.
Statin drugs include Lipitor (atorvastatin), Lescol
(fluvastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), Crestor (rosuvastatin) and
Some people can't take statins because of side effects, Kokkinos
said. "For these people, exercise alone reduces your risk just as
much, if not more, than statins," he said. However, he stressed,
"we do not recommend that people do not take their statins."
Exercise works by stressing the body making it stronger,
Kokkinos said. It's an evolutionary adaptation to protect the body
from being overcome by changing stressors, he said.
"Get off the couch -- walk," Kokkinos said. "About 150 minutes a week of brisk walking is all you need."
The report was published online in the Nov. 28 edition of
For the study, Kokkinos' team analyzed the medical records of
more than 10,000 veterans with high cholesterol levels treated in
Veterans Affairs hospitals in Washington D.C., and Palo Alto,
Calif. Of these, 9,700 were men and 343 were women.
The researchers judged the fitness levels of the participants by
looking at the results of standard treadmill exercise tolerance
tests, which were given between 1986 and 2011.
Fewer deaths occurred among participants who were taking statins
and were physically fit. Over 10 years of follow-up, those who were
the most physically fit had the lowest risk of dying, the
These fittest people actually reduced their risk of dying by
about 60 percent regardless of whether they were taking statins,
according to the study.
These difference in death risk could not be explained by age,
weight, ethnicity, gender, history of cardiovascular disease, risk
factors for cardiovascular disease or medications, the researchers
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, about 71 million Americans have high cholesterol, which
is an important risk factor for heart disease, the authors pointed
One expert familiar with the new findings cautioned that
exercise is not a replacement for statins in those with high
cholesterol. The best results are among those taking statins and
who are the fittest, he emphasized.
"Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death and disability in men and women in the United States," said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a spokesman for the American Heart Association and a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"Statin therapy has been proven in multiple clinical trials to substantially reduce cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality in men and women with or at risk for cardiovascular disease," he said.
Some people have assumed that if they are engaging in regular
exercise and are physically fit that they may not benefit from
statin treatment and some physicians consider statin therapy only
for patients who have failed attempts at lifestyle modification,
This new study shows that at all levels of physical fitness,
statin therapy was independently associated with lower risk of
dying. The very best 10-year outcomes were among men and women
taking statins with the highest fitness levels, he noted.
"These findings further reinforce the remarkable real-world clinical effectiveness and safety of statin therapy to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease," Fonarow said.
To learn more about cholesterol, visit the
American Heart Association.
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Information Services. All rights reserved.