A study has added to evidence that people with normal cholesterol levels can benefit from taking statins.

The study of 17,802 men and women who did not have high cholesterol levels found that taking rosuvastatin reduced deaths from heart attacks and strokes.

The participants did have increased levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, which signals a higher likelihood of cardiovascular events.

Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and funded by the pharmaceuticals firm AstraZeneca, found the statin reduced the incidence of major cardiovascular events by 45 per cent over less than two years.

It also significantly reduced the incidence of death from any cause, the study said.

Texas Heart Institute director James Willerson, who was involved in the research, said: "[The study] should dramatically change prevention guidelines.

"If your high sensitivity CRP is high, you should be on statin therapy regardless of your cholesterol level. This is an approach we can start using tomorrow."