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Statins Continue to Help Years After Dosing Ends

New research into cholesterol-lowering statins has foundthat the medicines continue to have a heart-protectiveeffect on patients even after they stop taking the drugs. Thestudy also shows evidence of the medicine?s ability to halt oreven reverse the progression of heart disease and stave offpremature death.

The study involved 6500 men enrolled in the University ofGlasgow?s West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study, arandomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial ofpravastatin in middle-aged men without a history of myocardialinfarction. In 1995, the study demonstrated a significantbenefit after approximately 5 years of treatment with astatin, versus placebo. The participants were followed for anadditional 10 years after treatment cessation.

During the entire 15-year study period, the pravastatingroup had significant reductions in death from all causes,compared with the placebo group. The researchers encouragedthose already taking statins to keep taking them, however.The findings were reported in the October 11, 2007,issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Better Prostate Cancer Survival forMen Taking Statins

A recent study has found that men taking statins to lowertheir cholesterol have a 10% greater chance of survivingprostate cancer with radiation therapy 10 years after initialdiagnosis. Although researchers called it an ?intriguing andvery interesting finding,? they came short of supporting theuse of statins in all prostate cancer patients.

Researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center inNew York City studied 871 men who were given radiationtherapy for prostate cancer between 1995 and 2000. The 5-year relapse-free survival rate for the men taking statins was91%, while the 10-year survival rate was 76%. Those who didnot take statins had an 81% and 66% rate, respectively. Theresearchers are not sure if the anticancer effect of the statinsis independent of the radiation therapy, or if the drug workswith the radiation to help fight off the disease.

They stated that this study, as well as past studies that suggesta beneficial effect of statins on prostate cancer, call fora tightly monitored clinical trial to zero in on its specificeffects. The findings were published in the November 1,2007, issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology.

More Young Adults Taking Cholesterol Meds

A report released by Medco Health Solutions Inc showedthat the use of cholesterol and blood pressure (BP) medicationsamong younger adults (aged 20 to 44 years) is on therise, and at a pace faster than that of senior citizens.

Experts noted that the younger population in America is dealingwith higher rates of obesity, hypertension, and high cholesterollevels, and the fact that many physicians are becomingmore aggressive at treating these conditions. The data indicatedthat the use of cholesterol-lowering medications in theyounger age group rose 68% over a 6-year period; the use of BPloweringmedicine rose 21% in that same time frame.

Among the patients aged 65 years and older, the use ofBP drugs went up only 9.5% and cholesterol drug use roseonly 52%, but researchers stated the reasons behind thesmaller increases were that half of these seniors were alreadytaking hypertension medicine and more than 1 in 4were taking cholesterol drugs. Although experts encourageyounger patients to opt for lifestyle changes before decidingon medication, they are encouraged that these patientsare acknowledging their need for help in lowering their BPand cholesterol levels and are taking more preventivemeasures.

New Links Found Between Cholesterol and AD

Researchers at Washington UniversitySchool of Medicine in St. Louishave discovered data that help backthe case for a potential cause ofAlzheimer?s disease (AD). Their findingsalso represent the first time scientistshave found a connectionbetween early-onset AD and lateonsetAD.

The researchers found that whenamyloid-beta, the main ingredient ofamyloid plaques in the brains ofpatients with AD, is made, a small bit ofprotein is also released that can regulatecholesterol levels in the brain.They stated that this supports the theorythat abnormal brain cholesterolmetabolism plays a role in the mentaldecline seen in patients with AD. Thefindings were reported in the October2007 issue of the journal Neuron.

In the current study, the investigatorsfound an aspect of cholesterol transportand metabolism in the brain was alink between early- and late-onset AD.Both forms of the disease result in similarbrain lesions and have the samesymptoms, including difficulty in communicating,learning, thinking, and reasoning,which suggest that they shareunderlying mechanisms as well.

The linking mechanism has not beenidentified until now, they said.

F A S T F A C T : A high level of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (160 mg/dL and above) reflects an increased risk of heart disease.

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