Health Tips: Statins: Benefits beyond cardiovascular protection


The satirical songster Alan Sherman once crooned, “Somewhere, over the rainbow/ Way up tall/ There’s a land where they’ve never/ heard of cholesterol.” That’s nowhere in the 50 states. The CDC says around 80 million Americans would benefit from taking cholesterol-lowering medicine, but only 43 million do.

The heart-protecting, risk-reducing benefits of statins -- the most-often prescribed med for elevated LDL cholesterol -- are proven. According to a 2014 meta-analysis of 20 years’ worth of published research, the cardiovascular benefits are huge. But a growing number of studies shows statins do more than protect you from heart attack or stroke.

-- Several studies indicate they decrease your risk for dementia by protecting the health of blood vessels in the brain and helping prevent amyloid protein accumulation, which characterizes Alzheimer’s.

-- They may reduce your risk for cancer, according to a new study that looked at a statin’s impact on 367,000 people who had a particular cancer-related gene variant. Other studies show statins may reduce the risk of prostate and breast cancer.

-- Statins may fight infection: A 2009 meta-analysis found folks on statins were 43% less likely to contract infections and 45% more likely to respond to treatment than people not taking statins. Docs now suggest statins may help fight off COVID-19.

So, don’t debate whether you should take or stay on a prescribed statin. (Only 55% of people stick with ‘em past six months.) That med may protect your heart, brain and a whole lot more from health problems.

The flu vaccine doesn’t raise your risk for COVID-19

“One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”: That could be the title of a short documentary on peculiar ideas floating around about the flu vaccine. (Psst! Did you hear the old one about the influenza vaccine actually causing the flu? Not a chance!) Well, now folks are worried that getting their flu shot may make them more vulnerable to catching COVID-19. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Research out of the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute indicates the flu vaccine does not raise your risk for other respiratory viruses. 

Also, interestingly, a 2019 study by the Cleveland Clinic of nearly 12,000 Americans found those who had the flu and pneumonia shot last year were less likely to test positive for COVID-19. Although it isn’t clear why there is this association, there may be a biological mechanism at play that makes the vaccine cross-protective in some way -- plus folks who get those vaccines may be more careful about their overall health and anti-COVID habits.

In any case, it’s not too late to get your flu shot -- and it’s recommended for everyone 6 months or older. It’s free for most of you and takes about two weeks for the antibodies to reach a protective level in your body.

Bonus: Although the flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, the steps you’re taking right now to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, such as wearing masks, washing your hands frequently and practicing social distancing, can also significantly help lower your risk for the flu. 

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit


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