Following a heart attack, the cholesterol-lowering drug atorvastatin has been shown to reduce the buildup of plaque in the arteries, according to new research out of the Juntendo University School of Medicine in Tokyo. The study included 70 patients who had recently experienced a heart attack. They were treated with atorvastatin (Lipitor) or were advised to adopt a diet low in cholesterol. Throughout the 6-month study, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol was lowered by 42% in the atorvastatin group and was increased by 1% in the diet-only group. In the atorvastatin group, plaque size decreased by 13% while in the diet-only group, it decreased by only 9%. Dr. Shinya Okazaki, lead author of the study, remarked, "This is the first evidence that plaque can regress with early statin treatment in heart attack patients. The positive effect of atorvastatin was evident whether [study participants] had an LDL cholesterol above 125 mg/dL or not." Researchers still need to determine how atorvastatin stabilizes plaque in the arteries.
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