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Moderate lifetime reductions in LDL cholesterol dramatically reduce risk of heart disease

A new genetic analysis of more than 12,000 individuals has found that a decrease in low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, of as little as 15 percent, sustained over the long term can dramatically reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. The reduction in LDL observed in this study can easily be achieved with a low dose of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins.

The analysis, which included both white and black populations, indicates that low levels of LDL cholesterol are protective even for people who have other significant risk factors for heart disease.

"What this study shows is that low plasma levels of LDL had a dramatic effect on the incidence of coronary events over a 15-year period. This is in individuals living in the same place, subjected to the same stresses, and having a similar prevalence of the major coronary risk factors hypertension, diabetes, and smoking and really high levels of those risk factors," said Helen H. Hobbs, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Hobbs led the study, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Texas Southwestern, the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, and the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The work, which suggests that susceptible individuals may benefit from earlier medical intervention, was partially funded by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and is published in the March 23, 2006, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal, Alan R. Tall, a professor of medicine at Columbia University, wrote that the findings "suggest that a one percent reduction in LDL cholesterol level over a lifetime translates into a reduction of more than two percent in the risk of cardiovascular disease."

LDL cholesterol, a waxy substance that can build up and clog arteries, is an essential fact
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Contact: Jennifer Michalowski
michalow@hhmi.org
301-215-8576
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
22-Mar-2006


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