"This is the first prospective study to show that statins have beneficial effects in heart failure in the absence of coronary artery disease or high blood cholesterol," says senior author James K. Liao, M.D., director of vascular medicine research at Brigham & Women's Hospital and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass. "This was a surprising finding in that the benefits occur after only 14 weeks of treatment and with a very low dose of the drug."
Statins have already been shown to decrease the incidence of chronic heart failure in patients with coronary artery disease and high cholesterol. However, the effect of statins on heart failure in people without cholesterol-induced coronary artery disease is not known.
The improved heart function observed in this study was in addition to the improvement already observed with two current treatments for heart failure beta blockers and ACE inhibitors. "This is quite remarkable for this disease," Liao says.
Heart failure occurs when the heart can't pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. It's associated with inflammation and an imbalance of hormones released by the body's defense system, which tends to overcompensate for the patient's poor heart function. "Because statins improve blood vessel function and suppress the inflammatory process, we believed that statins might improve heart function and the neurohormonal imbalance found in most forms of chronic heart failure," Liao explains.
To exclude statins' well-known cholesterol-lowering properties, which may improve heart failure caused by coronary artery disease, the researchers limited the study to patients with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, meaning their heart failu
Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association