Medics believe 12,000 heart attacks and strokes would be prevented each year.
And researchers called for 500,000 people with heart disease to be placed on high-dose statins.
The 4p-a-day pills are four times stronger than anti-cholesterol treatment issued by GPs.
A study of 30,000 high-risk patients by Imperial College London revealed those who took more powerful drugs were 40 per cent less likely to have a deadly cardiovascular event.
Those on a low-strength pill and who failed to take it daily saw the risk fall by only five per cent. Statins work by slowing down the production of cholesterol, but high levels are known to contribute to stiffening and narrowing of arteries.
Lead researcher Prof Kausik Ray, from Imperial, said: “People who do the best are those who adhere to the recommended dosage and who are on more potent drug regimens.”
Some 12 million Brits — one in three adults over 30 — are eligible for statins under NHS guidelines.
But patients complain of muscle aches and up to half ditch them.
Studies have also linked them to increased risk of type 2 diabetes, sleep problems and headaches.
Prof Ray said GPs must do better to explain the benefits of statins.
The British Heart Foundation’s Sir Nilesh Samani added: “This is real-world evidence taking your medicine as prescribed really can make all the difference.”
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