Although they may not get as much attention as some other medical issues, blood clots are seriously dangerous business, and they're more common than you may think. According to some estimates, more than 10 million people around the world suffer from venous thromboembolism, or VTE, every year. In a majority of these cases, the VTE results in either death or permanent disability. But what if there was a simple, common drug that could dramatically reduce the risk of these dangerous blood clots? As it turns out, there might just be one.
To some degree, blood clotting is a good thing. In fact, it's this very property of blood that keeps you from bleeding out when you accidentally nick your finger while preparing dinner. But when clots form deep inside the vein, that's when trouble starts.
Most of the time, these dangerous clots form in the leg, where the veins resting deep beneath the surface of the skin are put under constant pressure by the weight of your body. Eventually, these clots can break off and travel to the lungs, where they restrict blood flow, resulting in a potentially life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Ideally, the best way to avoid this incredibly dangerous condition is to stop blood clots from forming in the first place.
Since heart disease is one of the leading causes of death around the world, there are numerous drugs designed to improve cardiovascular health. One such type of drug lowers low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, otherwise known as LDL or bad cholesterol. These drugs are called statins, and they are routinely prescribed following the occurrence of a stroke or a heart attack. Now, however, a recent study suggests that statins could prove incredibly beneficial in the fight against venous thromboembolism.
For the study, researchers in the UK completed a meta-analysis on a wide range of previously performed studies that examined the link between VTE and statin use in adults. In total, the collected studies followed more than 3.2 million patients, and after controlling for age and other VTE risk factors, the team of researchers concluded that using statins did result in a lower likelihood of developing blood clots. In fact, using statins led to a 15% to 25% lower incidence rate, compared with patients who were not on cardiovascular medication.
Unfortunately, doctors are still limited in the ways that they can use statins. Currently, the drugs are only approved to help with cardiovascular disease, not to prevent venous thromboembolism, and a meta-analysis of previous studies isn't enough to change that. Still, the results show that statins could be a valuable tool in preventing life-threatening blood clots, and further research into this area might lead to changes in how the drugs can be prescribed.
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