With LDL Cholesterol Levels, the Lower the Better

DECEMBER 01, 2005

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.