THURSDAY, July 22 (HealthDay News) -- People with extremely low levels of "bad" cholesterol as a result of taking statins don't seem to benefit from increased levels of "good" cholesterol, a new study suggests.
The conventional wisdom has been that to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke you should lower your LDL, or "bad," cholesterol and increase your HDL, or "good," cholesterol. But researchers made a surprising discovery: for those with rock-bottom levels of LDL cholesterol induced by high-dose statin therapy, high HDL levels don't seem to matter.
Statins include widely used medications such as Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor.
For people not taking a statin (in the case of this study, Crestor), high concentrations of good cholesterol still offered heart protection, the researchers found.
"HDL cholesterol is a well-established 'protective risk factor' for heart disease, which has lead to speculation that drugs capable of increasing HDL cholesterol might be beneficial," said lead researcher Dr. Paul Ridker, the Eugene Braunwald Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
However, most of that data comes from studies of patients in the West with high levels of LDL cholesterol, he said. "In this work, we wanted to know if HDL cholesterol levels remain an important predictor of risk when we dropped LDL cholesterol down to very low ranges rarely seen in the West," he said.
The report on the randomized, double-blind trial is published in the July 22 online edition of The Lancet.
For the study, Ridker's team used data from the JUPITER trial, in which people with average to low levels of bad cholesterol were given 20 milligrams of rosuvastatin (Crestor) daily.
In many patients, the drug reduced LDL cholesterol levels to the low
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