But other experts urged caution.
"We have to really not lose sight of traditional guidelines," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "This is very interesting, but I think we have to wait and see."
According to the NHLBI, about 450,000 Americans will die of coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
People with increased levels of CRP, a marker of inflammation, have a higher risk for cardiovascular events. And about half of all heart attacks and strokes occur in apparently healthy people with lower LDL levels.
Statins are known to lower CRP levels, in addition to cholesterol levels.
The JUPITER trial randomized almost 18,000 men and women with LDL cholesterol levels less than 130 milligrams per deciliter (130 is considered "borderline high") and CRP levels of 2 milligrams per liter or higher (considered average risk) to take 20 milligrams of Crestor daily or a placebo.
Men were 50 years or older, while women were 60 or older, with no history of cardiovascular disease, no diabetes and no uncontrolled hypertension.
"These people would not have been candidates for statins," Weintraub said. "The use of statins right now is entirely related to LDL cholesterol."
The trial was halted after only two of four planned years of follow-up, when researchers noted a significant reduction (44 percent) in the primary endpoint -- a composite of cardiovascular events including heart attack, stroke and death.
Crestor reduced LDL levels by 50 percent and CRP levels by 37 percent.
"We estimate that the application of this simple screening and treatment strategy, when used over a five-year per
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