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Cardiology Study Shows Cholesterol Drugs Reduce Plaque

Posted by floriza in Cardiology

A cardiology study published in December 2011 in the journal, PLoS One, has shown that drugs which lower cholesterol also help to break down plaque in the arteries. The study was conducted by New York University Langone Medical Center and funded by the National Institutes of Health, Astra Zeneca, and Pfizer.

Participants in a prior large study who took high doses of these drugs, called statins, were found to have reduced plaque in their arteries, as well as a reduction in blood cholesterol, but researchers were uncertain why this phenomenon occurred. They were unable to determine how the medications reduce the fat and cholesterol that turns into plaque in the arteries, a condition that is called atherosclerosis. High cholesterol contributes to atherosclerosis, and the condition leads to blockages in the arteries and blood vessels, which frequently, in turn, leads to heart attacks, heart failure, and/or strokes.

How Statins Reduce Plaque

In this new cardiology study, which was conducted on mice, the NYU researchers have discovered that the statin medications alter “the expression of a specific cell surface receptor” within the cells of the plaque. The drugs actually rid the plaque of cells that cause coronary artery disease. The statins do this by activating a specific protein, which then activates the immune system.

As a result of these findings, it could be that statins will be beneficial to more patients, including those with atherosclerosis, as well as those with high blood cholesterol levels.

What is Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which a build-up of fat and cholesterol accumulates on the walls of the arteries, eventually leading to a blockage that prevents blood and oxygen from adequately flowing throughout the body. Blood and oxygen is required for the organs and systems of the body to function properly.

Cardiologists in New Jersey, New York, and elsewhere can determine if people have atherosclerosis. If the condition is not too advanced, it can sometimes be reversed. If there are enough blockages of the arteries, a heart attack or stroke may occur, and this event can be fatal in some cases or can cause significant damage. When the blockages are discovered, the cardiologist may recommend a procedure called an angioplasty, which clears the blockages, or bypass surgery, in which veins from the legs are removed and placed at the heart to redirect blood flow from and to the heart.

Smoking, diabetes, heredity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure all increase the risk of atherosclerosis.


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