Cholesterol drug increases pain-free walking distance

DALLAS, Sept 2 A cholesterol-lowering drug has the added benefit of improving walking ability in people with peripheral artery disease which causes frequent leg pain, according to a report in today's rapid access issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Peripheral artery disease is a condition caused by atherosclerosis, which also causes coronary artery disease and carotid artery disease. Fatty deposits build up in artery walls and restrict blood circulation, mainly in arteries leading to the legs and feet. A common symptom is intermittent claudication cramping or fatigue in the legs and buttocks during activity that eases during rest.

About 5 percent of people age 60 and older are believed to have claudication, says Mark A. Creager, M.D., the study's senior author and director of the Vascular Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins have been shown to reduce heart attacks and other cardiovascular events in patients with atherosclerosis. Creager and colleagues investigated if the statin drug atorvastatin could also reduce claudication.

Researchers examined 354 people in their 60s with claudication in a randomized, double-blind study. Participants were treated daily with either a placebo, 10 milligrams (mg) of atorvastatin or 80 mg of atorvastatin for one year. Researchers measured the total amount of time that participants could walk on a treadmill, and how long they could walk without pain. Participants were also given a quality-of-life questionnaire to gauge their total energy expenditure at work and during home and leisure-time activities for the preceding week.

"The significance of the finding is that patients with claudication treated with a statin may experience an improvement in walking distance and lifestyle in addition to the known benefits of reduced risk for heart attack, stroke and death," Creager says.

As expected, researchers found th

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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