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How Statins’ Impact on Testosterone May Affect Heart Disease

By LIDA TUNESI

Statins are a class of drugs commonly used to lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. As the authors of a new study put it, they “have revolutionized the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.”

The new research shows that in cis men, statins may also work to decrease the risk of ischemic heart disease (IHD) by lowering testosterone levels.

Professor Mary Schooling of the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy was the lead author on the study, published in eLife.

The results give researchers new direction for developing disease interventions, and shows how it can be useful to do hormone-specific studies on cardiovascular disease causes, preventions, and treatments.

Using data from the UK Biobank, the scientists found genetic evidence that statins reduced testosterone levels in cis men, though not in cis women. While other studies have shown a similar connection, the new research goes further by showing that this reduction in testosterone may be helping lower the risk of IHD.

Previous research from Schooling and colleagues has supported the idea of a link between high testosterone levels and cardiovascular issues.

The findings also match up with a theory of evolutionary biology that says there are tradeoffs between longevity and reproduction; in other words, that the things that make a person especially likely to reproduce might also contribute to shortening their lifespan.

Understanding all the effects statins have in the body will also help researchers figure out how side effects of these drugs—like muscle weakness or pain—come about, the authors said.

 

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Mary Schooling (Professor, Department Chairperson, Environmental, Occupational, and Geospatial Health Sciences) | Profile 1