The new findings are published in the Oct. 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Dr. Michael J. Domanski, chief of the atherothrombosis and coronary disease branch of the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, said it was unclear whether a statin or another cholesterol-lowering drug given before there's evidence of cardiovascular disease could lower the risk considerably. But that possibility exists, he said.
"There is the notion that if you start at a really, really low LDL rate, you might have a major impact on the incidence of the disease," said Domanski, who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study in the journal.
The last sentence of his editorial raises the possibility that sufficient lowering of LDL levels "will reduce the incidence of coronary disease to the point that it becomes a relatively uncommon diagnosis."
Coronary disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and other industrialized countries.
A first step in learning whether that reduction is a real possibility is to learn about the effect of having very low LDL levels in people with no cardiovascular problems, Domanski said.
"We need to understand that geometry," he said. "We have to understand whether or not we can dramatically reduce the incidence of this disease by treating asymptomatic patients early in life."
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has no plans for such a major study now, Domanski added. But, he said, "the full potential of LDL lowering needs to be explored because of the potential benefits of dramatically lowered incidence of coronary disease."
To learn more about statins and how they work, visit the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
SOURCES: Ian Ford, Ph.D., professor of
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