A new computer model developed by researchers from North Carolina State University and Mayo Clinic can now be used to determine the best time to start using statin therapy in diabetes patients to help prevent heart disease and stroke.
Dr. Brian Denton, lead author of the study, says that statins are a key component of current cardiovascular medical treatment guidelines.
They lower cholesterol levels and may significantly reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, particularly in patients that are considered to be at high risk.
"The research is significant because patients with diabetes are at high risk for cardiovascular disease and statins are the single most commonly used treatment for patients at risk of heart disease and/or stroke, and this model can help determine the best course of action for individual patients based on their risk of developing cardiovascular disease," he said.
For the study, the researchers developed a new mathematical model that examines various possible treatment policies to see how they influence short-term and long-term health outcomes for patients.
The model shows how people are affected by diabetes, and how their health changes over time as patients age and the disease advances.
The new model incorporates patient-specific data. An established risk model calculates each patient's probability of heart attack and stroke based on risk factors like their cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.
And the overall risk "score" is used to weigh the medical advantages of beginning statin therapy against the financial cost of the statins.
Overall, by accounting for the progression of diabetes, the patient's specific risk score and the cost-benefit analysis, the new model may help patients and doctors decide on the optimal time to begin statin therapy.
Denton said that the new model had not been put into practice as yet, but researchers were planning to develop a pilot to put the tool into the hands of medical professionals.
The study has been published in the journal Medical Decision Making.