April 21, 2014
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Study: Cholesterol medications may protect bones, too

A popular class of cholesterol medication may pack even more punch than just reducing your heart disease risk. Using statin drugs could also lower your risk of broken bones by more than a third, a research suggests.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston reviewed data on more than 91,000 patients - approximately 95% of whom were men - who had received treatment in the New England Veterans Affairs health system between January 1998 and June 2001.

Of the study population, 28,063 people were using a class of cholesterol-lowering medication known as statins, while 2,195 were using another class of cholesterol-lowering medication and 60,794 were not using any cholesterol-lowering medication at all.

They compared the rate of bone fractures among patients and found that among those who were taking statins, there was a 36% reduction in fracture risk compared to those not using a cholesterol-lowering drug. The researchers also found a 32% lower risk among those who were taking a cholesterol-lowering drug other than a statin.

The researchers found similar levels of risk reduction even after accounting for differences in age, BMI and other factors that are related to fracture risk.

Previous studies on the effect of statins on bone health have shown conflicting results, but the authors note that this is the largest study to date and is the first to focus on elderly men - a group especially likely to be using statin drugs.

Older adults are at increased risk for fractures because of a loss of bone mass that occurs during the aging process. When bones are extremely weak, it results in a condition known as osteoporosis.

While the exact mechanism for the possible protective effect of statins is not known, the researchers cite several possible theories, including reduced inflammation and the idea that improvements in small vessel blood flow could promote new bone growth.

But the researchers say it's still to early to recommend statins as a means of bone protection.

"Although we were limited in adjusting for all known confounding factors, this study provides additional information that fuels the debate of whether statins protect individuals against fractures. Further research is necessary to confirm or refute our findings," they write.


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