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Researchers from North Carolina State University and Mayo Clinic have
developed a computer model that medical doctors can use to determine
the best time to begin using statin therapy in diabetes patients to
help prevent heart disease and stroke.
"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," says Dr. Brian Denton, "and this model can help determine the
best course of action for individual patients based on their risk of
developing cardiovascular disease." Denton is an assistant professor in
NC State's Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial & Systems
Engineering and lead author of the study.
Statins are a key component of current cardiovascular medical
treatment guidelines, Denton says. 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 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 the disease advances and patients age.
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, such as their cholesterol, blood
pressure, etc. This overall risk "score" is used to weigh the medical
advantages of beginning statin therapy against the financial cost of
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
Denton says the new model has not yet been put into practice, but
that the research team plans to develop a pilot to put the tool into
the hands of medical professionals.
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