In the UK, cardiovascular disease is a huge health issue, causing around a quarter of all deaths every year. This includes conditions such as coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure.

There are a number of factors that can raise your risk for heart and circulatory disease, from genetics and age to lifestyle habits such as your diet, how often you exercise and whether you smoke.

While the disease can therefore sometimes be prevented or treated by making the necessary lifestyle changes, this is not the case for all patients. Medication can be required, with statins a popular type of medicine used to lower cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease.

Now research has suggested another drug, currently used for very different reasons, could also be used to tackle cardiovascular disease.

The drug finasteride, also known by brand names Propecia or Proscar, is already taken by millions of men worldwide to treat male pattern baldness and enlarged prostate.

A new study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the US, revealed the drug may also successfully lower cholesterol levels and slash the overall risk of cardiovascular disease.

As part of the research, which was published in the Journal of Lipid Research, a team analysed data on men taking part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2009 and 2016.

Surprisingly they found significant correlations between finasteride use and lower cholesterol levels.

“When we looked at the men taking finasteride in the survey, their cholesterol levels averaged 30 points lower than men not taking the drug,” lead study author Jaume Amengual said.

“I thought we’d see the opposite pattern, so it was very interesting.”

However, these survey results had their limitations.

Of nearly 4,800 suitable survey respondents only 155, who were all men over 50, reported using finasteride.

And the researchers also couldn’t tell how much or how long men in the survey had taken the drug.

This led the researchers to trial the effect of finasteride on mice.

They tested four levels of finasteride—0, 10, 100, and 1000 milligrams per kilogram of food—in male mice genetically predisposed to atherosclerosis.

The rodents consumed the drug, along with a high-fat, high-cholesterol “Western” diet, for 12 weeks.

“Mice that were given a high dose of finasteride showed lower cholesterol levels within the plasma as well as in the arteries,” doctoral student Donald Molina Chaves said.

“There were also fewer lipids and inflammatory markers in the liver.”

The team hopes a clinical human trial could one day confirm the potential for finasteride’s use against cardiovascular disease.

Amengual said it may be especially important to understand how finasteride affects trans individuals.

“Over the past decade, doctors have started prescribing this drug for individuals transitioning either from male to female or female to male. In both cases, the hormonal changes can trigger hair loss,” he said.

“The interesting thing is that transgender people are also at a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases.

“So this drug could have a potential beneficial effect to prevent cardiovascular disease not only in cis men but also in transgender individuals.”

If you have concerns about your heart health you should speak to your doctor.

According to the NHS, certain people should not take finesteride including women and children and people who:

  • Have ever had an allergic reaction to finasteride or any other medicine
  • Have severe bladder problems
  • Have liver problems.
You May Also Like

Symptoms of a deadly and heartbreaking disease can be prevented and eased with gardening

Lauren Frake, elderly care expert at Taking Care Personal Alarms, said in…

Woman suffers organ damage from parasitic worm laying eggs inside her abdomen… in case similar to RFK Jr's 'brain worm'

A 33-year-old woman suffered a deadly liver rupture after a worm laid…

Warning of 'winter vomiting bug' outbreak… in May! Norovirus infections hit a five-year seasonal high as health chiefs urge public to stay off work for two days if suffering symptoms

Norovirus cases have soared to their highest seasonal level in five years…

Bug sweeping UK as Government issues ‘don’t go to work’ warning

People are being urged not to go to work or school due…