Health After 50
More Bad News for Niacin
Are you currently taking niacin to improve your cholesterol levels? If so, a conversation with your doctor may be warranted to determine whether you should continue taking niacin.
The reason for reconsidering niacin is twofold: First, a new study claims that the drug doesn’t help lower heart attack or stroke risk and may instead cause serious side effects. Second, studies haven’t been able to show that raising “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol — one of the effects of niacin — has a benefit for people who already have heart disease.
For years, doctors have speculated on whether taking niacin to raise levels of HDL cholesterol could lower the risk of a heart attack, stroke or other cardiac events. The latest results from the recent HPS2-THRIVE trial, published by the New England Journal of Medicine, have answered with a resounding “no.”
This isn’t the first time niacin has been given the thumbs-down — past trials have reached similar conclusions, most notably the AIM-HIGH study of more than 3,400 patients on statin therapy. Researchers stopped that trial early in 2011 because of the apparent lack of benefit from niacin, along with reports of adverse events.
Dr. James L. Weiss, professor of cardiology at Johns Hopkins weighs in: “Higher HDL levels are associated with better heart outcomes, but that doesn’t mean they directly cause these better outcomes — an important distinction.
“Another way to look at it: Low HDL levels may be linked to an increased heart disease risk, but raising them with niacin doesn’t seem to reduce that risk. Still, it makes sense that you’d want more HDL cholesterol in your body.
“You can naturally increase levels by eating healthier foods, exercising regularly and quitting smoking. In the end, good health outcomes stem from making good lifestyle choices. For patients who stand to benefit from drug therapy, current guidelines recommend statins alone as the most effective therapy for reducing cardiovascular risk and suggest niacin for only selected high-risk patients for whom benefits outweigh risks.”
Posted in Heart Health on March 6, 2015
Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Health After 50 Disclaimer