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A recent report in the American Heart Journal suggests that statins also may decrease the chances of heart disease through another mechanism. A study discovered that patients who take statins seem to be more likely to form "collateral" arteries in the heart, which get around blocked arteries and allow blood to continue to flow.
"These findings suggest that one of the benefits of taking [statins] is that they help the heart to grow new blood vessels that might help supply blood to the part of the heart that is being served by a severely narrowed or even a blocked artery," explained lead author Richard H. Karas, MD, PhD. "And this could help to preserve their heart function in parts of the heart that are not getting enough nutrients and oxygen because of poor blood supply."
Whereas animal experiments have indicated that statin drugs can promote the growth of new vessels in oxygen-related tissues, the researchers needed to determine any similar effect in humans.They evaluated 94 patients with at least 1 major coronary artery blockage who were undergoing angiography. Prior to admission, 51 of the patients were taking statins and 43 were not.
To draw their conclusions, the investigators graded the presence of coronary collaterals visualized on the angiograms from 0 to 3.The results showed that the average score was considerably higher among statin-treated patients, compared with non-statin-taking participants. Also, the researchers discovered no link between collateral score and levels of low-density lipoproteins.