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Blood Test Could Save More From Heart Attacks


Ridker evaluated more than 5,700 healthy volunteers with no history of heart disease and average cholesterol levels. He found that people with elevated CRP levels who took a statin called Mevacor lowered their CRP levels nearly 15%. As expected, Mevacor also reduced cholesterol in those who had elevated cholesterol, he says. "Lowering cholesterol reduced the risk for heart attack," Ridker says. And among people with elevated CRP and relatively low levels of cholesterol, "the drug also reduced the risk."

Ridker says that the study findings demonstrate that statins can reduce heart attack risk among people with high cholesterol and high CRP or with normal cholesterol and high CRP. When both cholesterol and CRP are below certain levels, the drug has no beneficial effect.

This study shows both high cholesterol and high CRP are separate risk factors for heart attack. However, Ridker adds, it is too soon to begin recommending universal CRP screening or wider use of statins

Cleveland Clinic heart specialist Deepak I. Bhatt, MD, calls the new study an important one because it validates CRP as an independent marker for heart disease. In fact, the heart specialists at The Cleveland Clinic already include CRP levels in risk assessments for all people who undergo surgical procedures, such as balloon angioplasty or stenting, to open blocked arteries to the heart.

And it appears that all statins have this beneficial effect, notes Jailal. "This shows that [Mevacor] works. We looked at [Zocor and Lipitor] and observed similar results," he says. An earlier study found that Pravachol reduced heart attacks as well.

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