04/30/2002 - Articles

Statins May Help More Than Just the Heart

By: Tufts University

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Women who take drugs called "statins" to lower their cholesterol may be reaping an additional health benefit - lower risk of bone fractures. This is according to a study published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine .

Statins, fractures, and bone mineral density

Researchers in Australia studied 1,375 women between the ages of 50 and 95 and documented how many women took statin drugs and how many developed bone fractures over a two-year period. They also studied the bone mineral density measurements of the women's hips, spines, and whole bodies, because bone mineral density can be a predictor of fracture risk.

Statins made a difference

After accounting for factors that can influence fracture risk, such as age, weight, and use of hormone replacement therapy, the researchers found that women who took statins were almost 60% less likely to experience bone fractures than women who did not take them.

The lower risk for fractures in women who took statins may be partly explained by their higher bone mineral densities. Statin use was associated with a 3% greater bone mineral density in the hip. The women who took statins also tended to have higher bone mineral densities of the spine and whole body than women who didn't take them, but the differences were not great enough between the two groups to be what researchers deem "statistically significant."

Mechanism unclear

According to the researchers, this study joins several others in showing an association between statin use and lower risk of fractures. The exact reasons for this association remain unknown. It has been proposed that statins reduce fracture risk by raising bone mineral density, but the researchers say that the differences in bone mineral density between the two groups were not great enough to fully explain the significant differences in fracture risk.

What the results mean

While the results do not prove whether statin drugs actually prevent bone fractures, they will likely spur additional research in the area. And although it's unlikely that doctors would prescribe statin drugs solely for protection against fractures based on these results, women who already take them for lowering cholesterol may reap some benefit to their bones.

Source

Statin use, bone mineral density, and fracture risk.
JA. Pasco, MA. Kotowicz, MJ. Henry,  et al., Arch Int Med , 2002, vol. 162, pp. 537--540

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Created on: 04/25/2002
Reviewed on: 04/30/2002

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