Cholesterol-lowering drugs provide double protection against heart disease

DALLAS, July 13 -- Cholesterol-lowering drugs may ward off a secondary complication of high blood cholesterol, according to a report in today's Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce blood cholesterol, which can collect in the blood vessels, triggering a heart attack. New evidence suggests elevated cholesterol also can lead to a remodeling of the blood vessel wall that causes it to constrict, a condition called reduced myocardial vasodilation (MVD). However, the condition seems reversible with cholesterol-lowering treatment, say University of Tokyo researchers.

"Reduced MVD may be an early sign of coronary heart disease, because we were able to identify the condition in individuals with coronary heart disease who did not have extensive fatty deposits, or plaque, in their blood vessel. Our findings suggest that it is vital that this condition be treated in order to avoid a heart attack, and also that cholesterol-lowering drugs can help reverse this remodeling process," says lead author Ikuo Yokoyama, M.D., of the department of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Tokyo.

The researchers found that this reversal was also associated with improvements in blood pressure, both systolic (heart pumping) and diastolic (heart at rest).

"Reversing remodeling may result in a reduction in the development of plaque, which in turn can reduce the risk of a heart attack," says Yokoyama. However, further research is needed to confirm this idea.

The Japanese team did not set out to test the effectiveness of any particular cholesterol-lowering drug in improving blood flow to the heart muscle, and several drugs were used, often in combination.

Yokoyama and his team studied 27 people with high cholesterol, 17 men and 10 women, and compared them to 12 men and 4 women with normal cholesterol levels. The high cholesterol group had an average total cholesterol level of 263 milligrams per decilite

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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