Cholesterol-lowering drugs may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in millions of people who have ordinary cholesterol levels but show signs of inflammation in the bloodstream, a study found.
The findings suggest that testing patients for inflammation could give doctors a new way to tell which ones might benefit from taking cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins. Half of all heart attack patients have normal cholesterol levels. A blood test can detect high levels of C-reactive protein a sign of inflammation.
If the findings are confirmed, statins could help 20 million to 25 million Americans who do not fit current treatment guidelines, according to Dr. Paul M. Ridker, who led the study.
Ridker, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, receives some research money from the hospital's patents on the use of inflammation markers in heart disease.
Statins block an enzyme needed to make cholesterol in the liver. They also reduce levels of C-reactive protein, or CRP.