Another checkmark could soon be added to the “plus” column for statins: These cholesterol-lowering agents also may reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) in postmenopausal women with coronary disease.

A research team led by Cara N. Pellegrini, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, examined the association between statin use and the prevalence of AF in 2,673 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Heart and Estrogen-Progestin Replacement Study. The women studied had coronary disease at baseline and during a mean follow-up of 4.1 years.

“Women and men are affected by AF differently,” said Dr. Pellegrini at the annual scientific meeting of the Heart Rhythm Society in May. “Since past studies have shown benefits of statin therapy in the male population, we wanted to take a closer look at the effectiveness of statin therapy in women with regard to the risk of developing AF.” At the start of the study, the odds of having AF were 65% lower among those taking statins. The risk of developing AF during the study was 55% in the statin group.

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The analysis revealed that:
• Women with AF were significantly less likely to be taking a statin compared with those who did not have the condition (22% vs. 37%).
• After adjusting for other risk factors, women using statins at baseline were 50% less likely to have AF at baseline.
• After adjusting for other risk factors, women who were free of AF at baseline were 40% less likely to develop the condition if they were on statin therapy.

The investigators call statin drugs “among the most promising non-antiarrhythmic agents to treat AF,” presumably because they reduce cardiac inflammation.