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Normal Cholesterol Doesn't Guarantee Healthy Heart

Screening for inflammatory marker may spot people in need of statins, researchers say

MONDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- People with normal levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol still need to be screened for a marker of inflammation in order to identify those who may benefit from cholesterol-lowering statin therapy to reduce their long-term risk of heart attack, stroke and death, say U.S. researchers.

"This study builds on results from the landmark JUPITER trail, which showed that statins can prevent heart disease in people with normal LDL-c, or bad cholesterol, and an increased level of CRP," study co-author Dr. Christie Ballantyne, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center in Houston, said in a news release.

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a blood-borne marker of inflammation that has long been linked to cardiovascular risk.

Questions regarding the usefulness of CRP measurements remained after the results of the JUPITER trial, which was stopped at two years median patient follow-up, were released in 2008. One major question was whether observed cardiovascular disease event rates would persist with time.

"The new study analyzed patients' risk over an average of seven years to determine that CRP is, in fact, a long-term indicator of cardiovascular risk. This is important because approximately one in five men over 50 and women over 60 has a similar profile of increased CRP but normal LDL," Ballantyne said.

The researchers demonstrated that a simple screening test -- age plus CRP -- can identify patients who may benefit from statin drugs.

The study was published Dec. 11 online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

More information

The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia has more about c-reactive protein.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American College of Cardiology, news release, Dec. 11, 2009

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