Dear Dr. Roach: I am a 69-year-old male in good health. In 2017, I experienced a pulmonary embolism in my left lung. Following that episode, my cardiologist put me on a statin regimen of 40 mg Lipitor. This was to get my LDL numbers down to 60 or lower in order to counteract a buildup of plaque in arteries after an angiogram revealed less than 50% buildup in two areas of my heart. A year later, my LDL numbers were around 100, and my cardiologist doubled the Lipitor dose to 80 mg, still trying to reach the magic number of 60. I have been taking this dose for over a year now with a visit to my cardiologist scheduled soon.
Can lowering LDL numbers dramatically like this affect my immune system and therefore have negative effects if I were to contract a serious infection, such as the new coronavirus? — C.F.
Answer: The data are abundant that, in people with known blockages of the arteries in their heart, statin drugs reduce heart attack and stroke risk. I was not able to find data about the risk of viral diseases specifically, but a study from 2015 did demonstrate a lower bacterial infection rate in statin users compared with nonusers. An increase in deaths from causes other than heart disease has not been found in statin users.
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