The official blog of the Lung Institute.
When you hear the word pair, many duos come to mind. Two items that we connect in our thoughts together: peanut butter and jelly, meat and potatoes, cats and dogs, and the list can go on and on. And when it comes to the human body, our heart and lungs are intimately paired. One cannot function without the other. We need our heart to pump blood throughout the body, and our lungs to breathe in and out replenishing oxygen and ridding us of carbon dioxide. So it’s not surprising that medication used to assist in lowering cholesterol, like statins, can impact someone who has lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). But question is whether or not it has a positive or negative effect? Can statins help or hurt COPD sufferers?
The Effect of Statins on COPD Sufferers
In this day and age, the majority of Americans know how important it is to keep cholesterol levels in check. High cholesterol has become synonymous with a dramatically increased risk of heart disease. Keeping your cholesterol down can be accomplished with a healthy diet and exercise. But sometimes genetics has a hand in these lifestyle modifications not working as effectively as one would hope. That’s when and why a physician might prescribe cholesterol-lowering medication such as statins.
Now if you take into consideration the intimate relationship between heart and lung function, it might make you wonder whether or not treating heart disease could help decrease the severity of lung disease, such as COPD. Fortunately, there have been quite a number studies that investigated this dilemma.
Although the gold standard of COPD treatment has been supplemental oxygen along with inhaled steroids and bronchodilators, a study appearing in the Primary Care Respiratory Journal shook this belief. Research conducted at the University of Auckland in Australia discovered that statins reduced the incidence of death by 30 percent in COPD sufferers.
Nevertheless, a group of Taiwanese researchers still felt that the relationship between the benefits of statin on COPD outcomes was not absolutely true. Hence, they analyzed the records of over 14,000 patients who were admitted to the hospital due to a COPD flare-up. Their results were published in the American Journal of Medicine and confirmed what prior research had demonstrated. Any use of a statin was associated with a 30 percent decrease in risk of a COPD flare-up.
So what about statins might be the reason why this class of drugs has such a startling effect on COPD sufferers? Over the years, it has been well documented that statins do lower cholesterol but they also demonstrate an anti-inflammatory effect. And hence, this fact is what researchers believe to be the reason behind the positive effect of statins on COPD sufferers. Lessen the lung inflammation that goes hand in hand with COPD, and the COPD sufferer will feel better. An Egyptian research group took on the task to confirm or disprove this hypothesis. Printed in the Egyptian Journal of Chest Diseases and Tuberculosis, their results proved that statins did indeed lower inflammation in COPD patients as demonstrated by the decrease in total number of inflammatory cells.