When it comes to controlling your asthma, you probably take a multi-pronged approach that involves using medicine, avoiding triggers, and following an asthma management plan to stay on top of any changes. This strategy seems to help most patients to keep their symptoms under control.

But you may be interested to know that there is one more step that is helping some asthmatics to breathe better:  taking statin drugs, which are a type of cholesterol medication that seems to have an unintended benefit of helping some users who were on corticosteroid inhalers to improve their asthma as well.

New Findings

A new study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital found that among a group of users taking cholesterol-lowering medication or statin drugs, those with asthma had a third fewer visits to the emergency room and/or hospitalizations for their respiratory symptoms than their asthmatic counterparts who were not on any cholesterol medications. This is a significant difference and raises many questions for further exploration, according to allergists.[i]

The Benefits of Statin Drugs

This newly-recognized benefit of statin drugs to help asthmatics is just one of several publicized outcomes for the cholesterol medicine. In recent years, there has also been growing recognition that statin drugs can also lead to lower incidences of heart attack and stroke in some people at high risk for these conditions even if they don't actually have high cholesterol. The reason for these various health benefits seems to be the cholesterol medication's anti-inflammatory properties. In the case of asthma, researchers believe that the statin drugs help inhaled corticosteroids to have increased effectiveness. Further, the type of statins and the dosage don't seem to significantly affect the benefits.

What this Means

While these findings, which were presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Asthma and Immunology[ii], are indeed promising, researchers caution that they are still preliminary and need to be studied further to better understand statin drugs and how they can help reduce asthma symptoms in a larger population. At the present time, about 30 percent of people with asthma are also diagnosed with high cholesterol or with other health risks that require statin drugs.

In the meantime, the experts caution that if you don't need cholesterol medicine, these findings don't imply that you should suddenly begin taking it simply in the hopes it will help prevent an asthma attack.

On the other hand, though, you may want to see doctor and have a thorough evaluation of your cardiovascular health and risks in case any indications do exist that would make you a good candidate for this medication. If so, you just may get some added asthma benefits.[iii]


[i] http://www.bio-medicine.org/medicine-technology-1/New-Study-Suggests-Cholesterol-Lowering-Statins-Reduce-Severe-Asthma-Attacks-that-Result-in-Hospitalizations-and-Emergency-Room-Visits-4020-3/

[ii] An abstract of the study is published in a Special Supplement to the Journal of Allergy clinical Immunology, Feb. 2009. You can access this at http://www.aaaai.org/media/newsroom/am2009/JACI%20Feb%202009%20Abstract%20Supplement.pdf.

[iii] http://www.webmd.com/asthma/news/20090316/cholesterol-drugs-may-help-asthma-patients