Compelling scientific evidence shows that cholesterol-lowering drug therapy can reduce the risk of heart attacks by about 30 percent, according to a new report released by scientists associated with the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH).
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in this country, accounting for four out of every ten deaths. The new ACSH report, Chemoprevention of Coronary Heart Disease
, suggests that one of the most promising approaches to reducing that toll is chemoprevention decreasing heart attack risk through the use of drugs that lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol. The report is based on an academic review prepared for ACSH by John C. LaRosa, M.D., of the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn. It is the second in a series of ACSH reports on the emerging topic of chemoprevention (the first was published in 2000: Chemoprevention of Breast Cancer). Chemoprevention of Breast Cancer
Atherosclerosis, the accumulation of fatty arterial deposits that are the precursor to coronary heart disease (CHD), is a generalized disease that affects all of the arteries, so cholesterol-lowering drug therapy may be more beneficial than localized methods of treating CHD, such as angioplasty or surgery. The benefits of cholesterol reduction have been demonstrated in both men and women, in people with a history of coronary disease and in those with no such history, in people over the age of 65 as well as in younger people. For best results, cholesterol-lowering drugs should be used in combination with lifestyle changes, including avoidance of smoking, treatment of high blood pressure, and attaining appropriate weight and exercise levels.
Atherosclerosis is now considered a preventable disease, and recent changes in the official U.S. guidelines for the assessment and treatment of elevated cholesterol levels have more than doubled the number of people eligible for cholesterol-lowering drug therapy. According to ACSH's medical director, Gilbert Ross, M.D., "Appreciation among the public that elevated, and even borderline, cholesterol levels represent a danger of future heart-related events is increasing. However, there are still many millions of Americans who should be on cholesterol-lowering medication and are not."
All adults should check with their physicians to learn their overall risk for a heart attack. Those who are eligible for cholesterol-lowering drug therapy should consider this proven form of chemoprevention.