This common drug may increase risk of heart disease

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In a new study, researchers found that patients receiving low-dose steroids are at increased risk of heart disease.

The research was conducted by a team at Leeds University.

Glucocorticoids are steroids widely prescribed to treat a range of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases.

While high doses of steroids are known to increase the risk of heart disease, the impact of lower doses is unknown.

This study suggests that even low doses of glucocorticoid may increase the risk of heart diseases.

To quantify glucocorticoid dose-dependent heart risk, researchers analyzed medical records of 87,794 patients diagnosed with 6 different immune-mediated inflammatory diseases receiving care from 389 the United Kingdom primary care clinics in 1998-2017.

They found that for patients using less than 5 milligrams prenisolone per day, the absolute risk of heart disease nearly doubled compared to patients not using glucocorticoids.

Increased dose-dependent risk ratios were found in many heart diseases, including atrial fibrillation, heart failure, heart attack, peripheral arterial disease, and so on.

Previously, it was believed that taking 5 mg of glucocorticoid over the long-term was safe, but the study shows that even patients taking low doses have double the risk of developing heart disease.

These findings suggest patients needing long-term steroid treatment should be prescribed the lowest effective dose and have a personalized heart risk prevention plan that accounts for past and current steroid use.

One author of the study is Mar Pujades-Rodriguez.

The study is published in PLOS Medicine.

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