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Statins For The Healthy

November 11, 2008, 4:22 PM by Kelli Grant

Statins For The Healthy
Cardiovascular disease is the nation's number one killer---leading to 900 U.S. deaths each year. But new research may change the way doctors help patients prevent heart attacks and strokes and which patients they target. 

A groundbreaking new study has found that statin drugs, which are used by millions of Americans to lower bad cholesterol may help prevent strokes and heart attacks, even in patients who aren't traditionally at high risk. 

The study focused on a blood test called C-reactive protein or CRP, which indicates inflammation in the body. Of the nearly 18,000 patients followed men over 50 and women over 60---all had elevated CRP, but had normal cholesterol. Researchers gave them the statin Crestor because it lowers not only cholesterol, but also inflammation. The combination of the two can lead to clogged arteries that result in a heart attack or stroke. The study found the drug lowered heart attacks by 54 percent, strokes by 48 percent and deaths by 20 percent. And there were no serious side effects. 

Cardiologist Dr. Paul Ridker of Brigham and Women's Hospital says, “We've known that half of all heart attacks and strokes occur in apparently healthy men and women with average or even low levels of cholesterol.” 

That being said, the research may lead some 7 million more Americans to be put on these drugs at a cost of $9 billion a year. 

And now guidelines for statins could be expanded to include people who have never had serious health problems. The study was funded by the maker of Crestor, one of the strongest statin drugs on the market.

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