Advice from the Heart Foundation on statins

Nov 01, 2013
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The National Heart Foundation has issued the following media release in response to last night’s ABC Catalyst program in relation to heart medication and cholesterol:

Keep taking cholesterol medication

The National Heart Foundation of Australia is urging people not to change their medication or ignore their cholesterol levels following ABC media reports questioning the benefits of statins in the treatment of heart disease.

The call comes after the recent ABC Catalyst program questioned whether cholesterol is an important risk factor for heart disease and suggested the benefits of statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) were overstated.

The Heart Foundation’s National CEO Dr Lyn Roberts said the program has caused confusion in the community and she was worried it may be putting lives at risk.

“We know patients are already contacting their GPs and health professionals anxious about their heart health on the basis of the program. The Heart Foundation and the wider medical community are concerned that people may have been misled and might stop taking their statins without consulting their doctor,” Dr Roberts said.

“The conclusions presented in the ABC Catalyst program are not supported by the Heart Foundation or the vast majority of the medical and scientific communities[i] across the country and internationally.

“High cholesterol remains a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease and having multiple risk factors places you at higher risk.

“We are shocked by the disregard of the evidence and we are considering our next course of action.”

The Heart Foundation’s Chief Medical Adviser Professor James Tatoulis said that after a heart attack, treatment with a statin is standard, evidence-based management.

“Cholesterol-lowering drugs, known as statins, are the most commonly prescribed drugs in Australia and are a very effective way of reducing the risk of having a heart attack, particularly for people who have heart disease,” Prof Tatoulis said.

“Some of the largest studies ever conducted in medicine have demonstrated that statins decrease further heart attacks and save lives.

“Cholesterol remains an important risk factor for heart disease, but it’s important to remember that it’s just one risk factor and all other risks need to be considered to work out a person’s overall risk of heart attack.

“The Heart Foundation recommends that cholesterol, along with other risk factors including blood pressure, BMI, family history, smoking and physical inactivity are all considered when determining someone’s risk and if they need drug treatment.

“For many, their medication is life-saving but medication is never a substitute for a healthy lifestyle – we encourage all Australians to be active for 30 minutes a day, to eat healthily, be smoke-free and to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

“We want everyone to be aware of their risk factors and recommend everyone 45 and over (35 if you are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person) to visit their GP annually for a heart health check to calculate their risk of having a heart attack and discuss how to manage their risks with their doctor.”

One in three Australians adults, or 5.6 million have high cholesterol – a risk factor for Australia’s number one killer of men and women. [ii]

Information from the Heart Foundation on how to lower your cholesterol is available at or by calling our Health Information Service on 1300 36 27 87.

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Previous media release on Part 1 of the Catalyst “Heart of the Matter” report is available at:

[i] The World Health Organisation, American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology, British Heart Foundation, National Collaborating Centre for Primary Care and Royal College of General Practitioners, United Kingdom, European Society of Cardiology, New Zealand Heart Foundation