Researchers from the University of Liverpool say that much more effort needs to be put into encouraging people to adopt healthier lifestyles, while putting restrictions on the marketing of junk foods and increased taxation on sugary drinks.
Government subsidies for healthier foods should also be introduced.
Their research contrasts the true benefits of statin drugs and healthy lifestyles. Official figures from NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, suggest that statin drugs could save 50,000 lives a year if every man over the age of 60 and every women over 65 took them.
But the Liverpool researchers say that statins have only a marginal effect, and would save just 750 lives a year. Instead, better lifestyle choices could save 4,600 lives a year in the UK alone.
They analysed the death rate from coronary heart disease between 2000 and 2007, during which time the number of deaths fell by 38,000. Of these, 20,400 lives were saved because of reductions in blood pressure and total cholesterol, but only 1,800 could be attributable to statins. The vast majority were the result of healthier lifestyle choices.
(Source: BMJ Open, 2015: 5(1))