Health experts are concerned about the number of people who have a high risk of cardiovascular disease who refuse statins.

It follows a new American study which found that 20% of people at risk of heart disease don’t take the recommended statin medication.

In particular, women were 20% more likely to refuse the medication than men when first recommended by their doctors, and worryingly, more than 50% more likely than men to never take the medication.

The research team, from the US’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is unsure as to why women are more reluctant to take statins than men but have speculated that it could be due to the misconception that men are more affected by heart disease than women.

Associate professor Dr Alex Turchin, from Harvard Medical School, said: “Our study highlights the alarming number of patients who refuse statins and signals that physicians must have discussions with patients about why.“We need to better understand what our patients’ preferences are and to be able to provide more patient-centred care.”

The team also revealed that all those people who turned down statins went on to develop ‘bad’ cholesterol levels.

Dr Turchin started examining the wording of provider notes after noticing that lots of his patients with high cholesterol were turning down medications like statin which can lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

His study involved 24,000 people classed as high risk due to having coronary artery or vascular disease, diabetes, very high cholesterol, or having had a stroke. The study found that around one-third of people who were recommended statins never took it. It also revealed that those people who initially refused the treatment took three times as long to reduce their ‘bad’ cholesterol levels compared to those who accepted the treatment straightaway.

Dr Turchin commented: “Even in this higher-risk patient population, so many people did not accept statin therapy. Ultimately, we need to talk to our patients and find out in more detail why they would prefer not to take statins.

“I think people underestimate how much of a difference modern medicine has made in extending people’s lives, and their quality of life, and medications can play a big role in that.”

The study has been published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Read more on statins and their side effects.

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