Islamabad - A new study has associated statins - drugs commonly used to lower cholesterol - with greater aggression in women. In men, however, the drugs may reduce aggression.

Lead study author Dr Beatrice A Golomb, professor of medicine at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues publish their findings in a journal. While statins have been shown to be effective for lowering cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease, numerous studies have suggested they may present various health risks.

In April, for example, Medical News Today reported on a study associating statin use with increased risk of type 2 diabetes. According to Dr Golomb, previous studies have associated low cholesterol levels with greater risk of violent actions and death from violence. What is more, she notes there have been reports of people prescribed statins experiencing irritability and aggression.

“Yet in contrast to pre-statin lipid-lowering approaches, clinical trials and meta-analyses of statin use (in which most study participants were male) had not shown an overall tendency toward increased violent death,” she notes.

As such, Dr Golomb and colleagues set out to gain a better understanding of whether there is an association between statin use and aggression. To reach their findings, the team randomized more than 1,000 men and postmenopausal women to receive either statin therapy - with simvastatin or pravastatin - or a placebo for 6 months.

The study was double-blind, meaning both the researchers and study participants did not know which subjects were receiving statins and which were taking the placebo. The researchers measured aggression levels among participants by assessing the frequency of aggressive acts toward themselves, objects and other people in the week prior to treatment and during treatment.

The team also measured testosterone levels and sleep quality among participants - factors that are known to affect aggression and which can be affected by statins - and men and women were assessed separately, allowing the researchers to account for gender differences. Compared with women who received the placebo, women who were treated with statins experienced an increase in aggression - particularly women aged 45 and older and those who had lower aggression levels at study baseline. In men, however, the researchers identified no overall increase in aggression among those who were treated with statins compared with those who received the placebo. In fact, they found an overall reduction in aggression for statin-treated men - particularly among younger men who had higher aggression levels at baseline. The team notes that three men who took statins experienced significant increases in aggression, but when these men were included in the analysis, no overall aggression increase was found.

Three cups of coffee a day cuts heart attack risk

Drinking three to five cups of coffee daily can cut the risk of clogged arteries that lead to heart attacks, a study has shown. Drinking three to five cups of coffee daily can cut the risk of clogged arteries that lead to heart attacks, a study has shown. Researchers found those who drink a moderate amount each day are least likely to have ‘coronary calcium’ in their arteries - an early indicator of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Blood vessels hardened and narrowed by such deposits can lead to clots which in turn can trigger a heart attack or a stroke.

The scientists studied a group of more than 25,000 Korean men and women with an average age of 41, who had no signs of heart disease.

Their coffee consumption was categorised as none, less than one cup a day, one to three cups a day, three to five cups per day and five or more per day. They found the prevalence of detectable CAC was 13.4 per cent amongst the whole group while the average amount of coffee drunk was 1.8 cups per day.

Their findings showed the calcium ratios were 0.77 for people who had less than one cup per day, 0.66 for those having one to three cups every day, 0.59 for those consuming three to five cups per day, and 0.81 for people having at least five cups or more every day compared with non-coffee drinkers.

The U-shaped findings meant that those who drank one to three coffees a day had the second least prevalence of arteries that had clogged up. Meanwhile, women who suffer a traumatic experience are up to 60 per cent more likely to have a heart attack or stroke in later life, say researchers.

Scientists say the phenomenon is worst among those with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which means the condition is a potentially deadly physical one as well as a mental problem.

The study, the first of its kind, involved bout 50,000 participants over 20 years.

Most previous research into a link between PTSD and cardiovascular disease has involved men who had been involved in war and disasters, even though the condition is twice as common in women.

PTSD can occur from being caught up in a disaster or accident, or from being victim of rape or violence.

It may experience flashbacks, insomnia, fatigue, emotional numbness and difficulties with memory and concentration and emotional numbing.

Unhealthy: Smoking is one of the factors behind the link

Other symptoms include nightmares, irritability or being startled easily.

In the study under 65s with four or more symptoms had 60 per cent higher rates of cardiovascular disease compared to women who were not exposed to traumatic events.

Almost half of the association between PTSD and cardiovascular disease was accounted for by unhealthy behaviours like smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and medical factors such as high blood pressure.

Dr Jennifer Sumner, of Columbia University, New York, said: “PTSD is generally considered a psychological problem, but the message from our findings is that it also has a profound impact on physical health, especially cardiovascular risk. “This is not exclusively a mental problem - it is a potentially deadly problem of the body as well.”

She said doctors should be aware of the link and screen for cardiovascular disease risk and encourage changes in lifestyle factors that may increase the risk.