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Ceasing Statin Use Post Stroke Doubles Risk of Death

An Italian study showed that patients who survive a stroke and stop taking their prescribed statin medications increase their chances of dying in the next year by 2-fold, compared with those who keep taking the medicine.

The researchers followed 631 survivors of stroke, average age 70 years, who had no other major illnesses, including heart disease. All the patients were given orders to begin statin therapy at hospital discharge, but, by the end of the study, 38.9% of the patients had stopped taking the medicine, many of them quickly-the average time to discontinuation was 48.6 days. During the study, 116 patients died, and 80% of these deaths were attributed to cardiovascular causes.

The researchers determined that discontinuing statin therapy was significantly associated with increased risk of death from any cause. Patients who had stopped taking statins within a year of stroke were more than twice as likely to die as others who took the medicine. The results were reported in the August 30, 2007, online issue of Stroke.

FDA Warns of Online Red Yeast Rice Products

The FDA has issued a warning against 3 red yeast rice products being promoted and sold on the Internet as dietary supplements for lowering high cholesterol. They contain an illicit medicine that could harm patients.

The agency tested Red Yeast Rice and Red Yeast Rice/Policosonal Complex, both sold by Swanson Healthcare Products Inc and manufactured by Nature's Value Inc and Kabco Inc, respectively; and Cholestrix, sold by Sunburst Biorganics. These supplements were found to contain lovastatin, the active ingredient in Mevacor (Merck & Co Inc). The FDA determined, as stated in a warning letter to Sunburst, that because these products "contain?enhanced or added lovastatin, and bear a claim about the ?powerful cholesterol fighting' benefits supplied by this ingredient, [they] cannot be marketed as a dietary supplement."

The danger of taking lovastatin is the risk of side effects in some patients. The risk is greater in patients who are already taking lovastatin as prescribed by their physician; the excessive dosing can increase the possibility of adverse reactions in the muscles.

Kids Listen When Counseled on Cholesterol

A study conducted by the University of Turku in Finland showed that children who are instructed on healthy eating do, in fact, eat better, even if it entails forgoing their favorite fatty foods. Regular counseling of families and children about the benefits of avoiding saturated fats in their diets led to less consumption of fat and saturated fat, and, as a result, children up to age 14 experienced reduced blood cholesterol levels. The researchers' findings were reported in the August 13, 2007, online edition of Circulation.

Lifetime eating habits are established early in life, the researchers said. They compared 540 children who were assigned to receive dietary counseling with 522 who were not. Those who were counseled tended to consume more protein and carbohydrates than those who received no counseling.

The families of counseled children received regular advice from a nutritionist, and the children were taught directly beginning at age 7. By age 14, the group that was advised had a statistically significant lower median cholesterol level than their unadvised peers. The researchers plan to follow the children's progress until they reach the age of 20.

Proper Stress Handling Can Raise Good Cholesterol

Researchers at the University of Hawaii found that men who can remain calm in stressful situations can increase their blood levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), the "good" cholesterol that keeps arteries from becoming clogged. The theory has been that men who respond in anger to stress harm their cardiovascular systems by raising their levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), the "bad" cholesterol that forms the plaque that blocks arteries. The study found, however, that negative reactions to stress had no effect on LDL levels.

The researchers studied 716 men with an average age of 65 years who were taking part in a long-term study on aging. Each participant was asked to describe the most stressful situation he or she had experienced in the past week, and then asked to choose from 26 coping strategies for stress. Lower HDL levels were found in men who used hostile coping strategies; these reactions had no effect on LDL levels. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco in August 2007.

FAST FACT: Regular exercise, vitamin C, and niacin are natural elevators of high-density lipoproteins.

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