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Statins May Reverse Plaque Buildup

Study Shows Crestor Opens Up Fat-Clogged Arteries

Raising HDL 'Good' Cholesterol continued...

To the researchers' surprise, there was also an unprecedented rise in "good" HDL cholesterol levels, from 43.1 mg/dL at the start of the study to 49.0 mg/dL two years later, he says.

The findings suggest that "rather than use target levels of LDL, let's get our patients as low as we can without safety issues," Nissen says.

LDL levels of less than 100 mg/dL are considered optimal, while HDL levels of 60 mg/dL or higher are considered protective against heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Williams notes that not every person with fat-clogged arteries will benefit. In the study, plaque regressed in about 64% to 78% of participants, Nissen says.

"But what that means," he adds, "is that if you achieve these low lipid levels, there's a pretty good chance you will regress."

There were "no obvious safety issues," although some patients did experience elevations in liver enzymes similar to those seen in other statin studies, he says.

Other Statins May Work

Roger S. Blumenthal, MD, of the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Preventive Cardiology Center in Baltimore, says he believes that unprecedented rise in HDL (the good cholesterol) is one of the most exciting findings of the trial.

While no one knows for sure, "the HDL improvement probably played a large role in the plaque regression," he says.

So will other statin drugs also reverse plaque buildup?

No one knows that yet either, Nissen says. "But if you achieve these low LDL levels by other means, you would probably get the same results. It just hasn't been tested."

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