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Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs May Ease Irregular Heartbeat
Date:2/18/2008

Statins effective against atrial fibrillation, analysis shows

MONDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Statins such as Crestor, Lipitor or Zocor that are prescribed to lower cholesterol levels may also cut the risk of atrial fibrillation, the abnormal heartbeat that boosts the odds of a stroke, French researchers report.

An analysis of six controlled studies with more than 3,500 participants showed that those patients who received statins had a decreased risk of incidence or recurrence of atrial fibrillation, said lead researcher Dr. Laurent Fauchier, a professor of cardiology at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Trousseau in Tours.

His team will publish the findings Feb. 26 in a special issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that focused on atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation occurs when the two upper chambers of the heart quiver rather than beating in a coordinated way. Blood can pool in the chambers, and clots can form that travel to the brain, causing a stroke. The incidence of atrial fibrillation rises with age and experts estimate that the condition is present in more than 5 percent of Americans over the age of 70. One 2006 study put the number of Americans with atrial fibrillation at over 5 million.

Participants in the trials either had experienced atrial fibrillation in the past or had a high risk of the condition after a heart attack or bypass surgery.

Overall, those who got statins had a 61 percent lower risk of developing atrial fibrillation than those who did not, the analysis found.

Still, the time has not yet come when statin therapy can be recommended for treatment of atrial fibrillation, Fauchier said.

"I think it is too early to use statins only for atrial fibrillation," he said.

That belief was echoed by Dr. Christopher Cannon, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a cardiologist at Brigha
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