Could cholesterol-lowering statins help lower your risk of dying from COVID-19? For patients with a history of high blood pressure or heart disease, the answer appears to be yes.
At least that’s the conclusion of a new study that enlisted roughly 10,500 patients across 104 U.S. hospitals between January and September of 2020.
All had been admitted with a serious bout of COVID-19. Prior to hospitalization, 42% had been taking statins to rein in high cholesterol, with 7% taking statins alone and 35% taking both statins and blood pressure medications.
In the end, about a fifth of the patients either succumbed to COVID-19 or were discharged to a hospice setting.
“[But] we found that patients taking statin medications prior to getting hospitalized due to COVID-19 had a 41% lower risk of dying during that hospitalization, even after adjusting for other factors like age, gender, other medical problems, and what type of medical insurance they had,” said study author Dr. Lori Daniels.
After analyzing data amassed by the American Heart Association, the team also concluded that statin use was similarly linked to a 25% lower risk for developing a “severe outcome” as a result of COVID-19 infection.
Why? Statins might have this effect by “stabilizing the underlying heart conditions for which they are prescribed, making patients more likely to recover from COVID-19,” said Daniels, director of the cardiovascular intensive care unit at the University of California, San Diego.
But not all patients on statins have advanced heart disease, Daniels’ team noted. Many relatively healthy patients also take them in proactively to stave off cardiovascular trouble.
Which begs the question, could statins also lower death among COVID-19 patients who don’t yet have serious underlying heart issues? Daniels suggested the jury is still out on that question.
She noted that statins pack a potentially helpful anti-inflammatory punch. Her team found that statins drove death risk down by 16% among patients with no prior history of heart disease.
Still, Daniels cautioned that for heart healthy patients, the trial results were “not statistically significant.” And “the present study cannot tell us whether giving patients statins, if they are not already on them, would be helpful,” she stressed.
“However, in other settings besides COVID-19, such as patients coming in with large heart attacks