THURSDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- Statins are proven drugs taken by millions to lower their cholesterol, but the medications also could hamper heart patients' ability to improve their cardiovascular health through exercise, researchers say.
A small group of overweight or obese people were unable to make any significant fitness gains while taking a 40 milligram daily dose of simvastatin, while another group not on the drug but undergoing the same exercise regimen did show improvement, found the study released online in advance of print publication in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
"If you exercise a group of people, they are going to have an increase in their fitness," said study author John Thyfault, an associate professor at the Clinical Research Center in the University of Missouri School of Medicine. "In our group who was only taking statins, the improvements were blocked or did not occur."
This finding could drastically affect the way physicians treat heart patients, particularly if it is found that other types of statin medications have the same negative effect on exercise benefits, Thyfault said.
People at risk for heart disease or metabolic syndrome (a cluster of factors that raise the risk for coronary artery disease, stroke and diabetes) often are prescribed statins to lower their blood cholesterol and at the same time advised to exercise more, he said. Both statins and exercise have been independently proven to lower cardiovascular disease risk, but may not pair well.
"Statins have saved lives, but I think physicians need to be careful about who they prescribe to, that it should be reserved for the most at-risk patients," Thyfault said. "We need to rethink it. Not like a lot of people used to say, that statins should be put in the water supply."
In the study, 19 people at risk for cardiovascular disease were placed on
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