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 suggests.
"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 Zocor (simvastatin).
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 The Lancet.
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 me
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