The results of a recent study show that very low levels of low-density
lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, known as the "bad" cholesterol,
seem to be safe in heart patients who are already taking
statins. These patients can see their LDL levels drop from over 200
mg/dL, past the regular target goal of 70 to 80 mg/dL, to as low as
40 mg/dL. The results were published in the October 18, 2005, edition
of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Christopher P. Cannon, MD, a cardiologist at Brigham and
Women's Hospital in Boston, Mass, and study coauthor, said
that the researchers "looked at patients who got to ultra-low cholesterol
levels and wanted to make sure that was safe." They
found that not only was it safe, but it was actually better to have
the levels down near 40 or 50 mg/dL than the previous standard
of 70 to 80 mg/dL.
The study involved 1825 patients who were taking statins after
having a heart attack or unstable angina. After 4 months of drug
therapy, 91% of the patients reported a drop in cholesterol levels
to below 100 mg/dL. Of these, 11% saw their levels drop below
40 mg/dL. Compared with the other groups, patients in this percentage
group, as well as those whose levels fell between 40 and
60 mg/dL, had fewer heart attacks, strokes, cardiac deaths, chest
pains, or other heart problems.