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New research suggests that anticholesterol drugs taken by more than two million people in the UK could also cut the risk of an irregular heartbeat.
Statins are already known to cut the chance of heart disease and heart attacks but now health experts believe they may have an extra protective effect.
A report published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) examined findings on atrial fibrillation, which is an abnormal rhythm involving the upper chambers of the heart.
French researchers analysed data from six trials involving more than 3,500 patients. They all had either had atrial fibrillation in the past or had a high risk of developing new atrial fibrillation following a heart attack or coronary bypass surgery.
They found that those patients who were taking statins were 61% less likely to develop atrial fibrillation than patients who were not treated with them.
Dr Laurent Fauchier, from the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Trousseau in Tours, said that while it may be too early to consider prescribing statins to all patients with a history of atrial fibrillation, the results suggested there was a bonus effect.
He said: “What patients should know is this: if your doctor prescribes a statin for any reason, it will decrease the risk of cardiac events related to atherosclerosis, and by the way, it may also decrease the risk of atrial fibrillation.”
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