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Taking Control Of Cholesterol

17 April 2002

Taking Control Of Cholesterol And Beating The “Silent Killer”

Heart disease is “a silent killer” but can be avoided through more attention to diet and exercise, Health Minister Annette King said at the launch today of a campaign to combat cholesterol.

Pharmac’s Take Control of Your Cholesterol campaign aims to increase peoples’ awareness of their heart disease risk, to improve their lifestyle, and the role of statins drugs as part of a cardiovascular management programme. Working with the National Heart Foundation and Sport and Recreation New Zealand, the campaign is Pharmac’s first extensive patients information promotion using mass media.

The campaign aims to reduce New Zealanders’ risk of cardiovascular disease, in turn reducing hospital admissions for heart-related conditions. Coronary heart disease is the biggest killer in New Zealand, and those most at risk are people over the age of 40, men, people with diabetes, and Mäori and Pacific people in particular.

Ms King said while diet and exercise were the best preventatives to heart disease – “30 minutes of moderate exercise a day could add years to your life” – statins could markedly reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Statins slow down the production of cholesterol and increase the liver’s ability to remove it from the blood, and it’s estimated 300,000 people could benefit from this medication.

Pharmac widened access to statins this month, following successful negotiations with a supplier. In April 2001, about 175,000 people were eligible for statins, but only about 67,000 were taking them – less than 40 percent of those eligible. This means about 6930 ‘statistical deaths’ over a 10-year period – higher than the number of road deaths reported to the LTSA in the same period (5499).

Ms King said having access to statins was only one part of the equation, as good diet and regular exercise were vital.

“Statins are not a substitute for healthy lifestyle. It’s important to remember also that statins are a long-term medication – often for the rest of the patient’s life, and the benefits are often not seen for two years. Some people often stop taking them because they don’t notice any change, but heart disease is a silent killer.”

All doctors have been sent charts to help patients assess their cardiovascular risk. Doctors will also be giving out ‘green prescriptions’ – ideas for exercise, encouraging people to lose weight, stop smoking and controlling blood pressure.


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