With virtually all my buddies on Lipitor already, I had assumed my cholesterol test scores would keep me from the club but, as usual, the drug industry has an answer for stubborn healthy folks these days.
In results from an eagerly anticipated study that could dramatically change the treatment of cardiovascular disease, researchers have found that statin drugs -- now given to millions of people with high cholesterol -- can halve the risk of heart attacks and stroke in seemingly healthy patients as well.The key is a new test for C-reactive protein [CRP] that identifies people who are likely to experience inflammation of arteries even with relatively benign cholesterol levels.
The study of nearly 18,000 people with normal cholesterol found that the drugs, already among the most widely prescribed in the country, also lowered the risk of death from heart disease by 20%, suggesting that millions more people should be put on a daily regimen. [More]
C-reactive protein (CRP) emerged as a potential measure of cardiovascular risk in the mid-1990s, as researchers were starting to think of heart attacks as being caused by inflammation of cholesterol-laden artery walls. It is only if the artery is inflamed, the argument goes, that the cholesterol bursts and causes a heart attack. Any kind of inflammation, including infections, increases blood levels of CRP, and test measurements can vary dramatically for the same person. But a large body of data now indicates that those with a CRP of greater than 2.4 mg/L have a heart attack risk of twice as much as those whose CRP is less than 1 mg/L. In the just-released Jupiter study, those who had an elevated CRP but few other risk factors saw their risk of heart attacks, strokes and procedures decrease 37%. [More from a very helpful pictorial explanation]
The test is not expensive - about $80, supposedly.
So - lemme guess what my diminutive physician is going to suggest when I go for my annual checkup?