Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Statins discussed at Royal College of Pathologists lecture at Cheltenham Science Festival

At Cheltenham Science Festival on Saturday 12th June 2010 'Heart Attack' was presented by the Royal College of Pathologists. After the lecture one speaker told me that a 1% reduction in cholesterol levels using statins reduces risk of heart attacks by 2%. Statins can reduce total cholesterol levels by up to 25% therefore statins can reduce risk of heart attacks by up to 50%. The chance of muscle problems is 1 in 10,000 whilst the chance of other more serious side effects is very very small. The 'safe' UK level is 5 millimoles (mm) cholesterol. The Chinese typically have 2-3 mm cholesterol levels. Humans only need 1.5 mm cholesterol for normal health. A reduction of 25% cholesterol from 5 mm to 3.75mm could give a 50% reduction in the chances of a heart attack. NHS finance was the reason why the 'safe' 5mm level was not lower, based around cost of life saved over 10 year economic considerations. Cholesterol levels are of two types - good cholesterol (High Density Lipoproteins) and bad cholesterol (Low density Lipoproteins). Statins have been considered to be added to tap water he said (I didn't check his name).

The next lecture I attended was 'Worth the Risk' given by David Spiegelhalter the Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk based in the Statistical Laboratory in the University of Cambridge. He blogs at Understanding Uncertainty. He explained the idea of the 'Micromort' (see plusmaths for a dynamic explanation) as a better way of explaining risk than 1 in a million chance. David  Spiegelhalter  said that surveys had found that 25% of the population consider a 1 in 10 risk to be LESS risky than a 1 in 100 risk! He mentioned that he was personally considering taking statins. After the lecture I asked him why he was not already taking statins. He said being 'healthy' meant that he couldn't get statins on the NHS and whilst recognising the benefits of statins (can reduce chance of heart attack by 40%) he was not good at taking pills.

A video has gone on Youtube called Professor Risk as part of a series made for the Cambridge 800 years anniversary. To be honest it's a bit lightweight when it comes to risk, and all the subtle bits got cut. We filmed a whole lot more including my GP taking my blood, discussing statins and screening for prostate cancer. All on the cutting-room floor. Good point: Stephen Fry does the intro voiceover. Bad point: me in my jim-jams. (source)

A brilliant way of explaining in differant ways the risks /rewards of Statins