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Cholesterol-lowering medications may not reduce heart risk

Category: Heart Health and Cholesterol

Millions of people who receive unhealthy cholesterol test results are prescribed a combination of statin medications and ezetimibe. However, a new study out of the University of Virginia Health System suggests that the latter drug may not provide any protection from the harmful effects of high cholesterol.

The main consequence of high cholesterol is a condition known as atherosclerosis. In individuals with this disease, individuals arteries become thick and stiff and are less able to handle changes in blood pressure. While the researchers found that patients taking ezetimibe did experience lower cholesterol levels, they still developed atherosclerosis at high rates.

"We found that in these patients, atherosclerosis progressed at a rate of four percent per year over the two-year study period. That’s a troubling rate of progression that occurred, despite the fall in cholesterol," said Christopher M. Kramer, who led the study.

The researchers were unable to determine from their study the reason why one class of medications would fail to lower atherosclerosis risk. However, they noted that statin medications and ezetimibe work in much different ways, and that these differences may have something to do with the phenomenon.

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