Just when you thought you had your cholesterol down to a healthy level, the news today is that when it comes to your LDL cholesterol, the so-called bad cholesterol, that number needs to go lower... much lower.
"Everyone thought, well if I have a bad cholesterol less than 100 then I'm okay. That now, that's wrong. Now, we're talking about having a bad cholesterol less than 60, so the bar has been totally reset. It's possible, and now we know it's also accompanied by much better outcomes. And so this is a major event," says Eric Topol, M.D., cardiologist.
The latest research of 4,000 heart patients taking cholesterol drugs called Statins finds a 16% lower risk of heart disease death among those who lowered their LDL to 60 or less with aggressive drug therapy, that's compared to those who had levels of 100 with a standard Statin dose.
Now, researchers are watching similar studies underway to confirm the low LDL benefit, and that could mean millions of Americans who thought they were managing their cholesterol on their own could end up on more aggressive drug therapy.
The American Heart Association says the findings add to growing research that getting LDL levels below the recommended 100 or less is an important step in reducing the risk of death in heart patients. It's important to remember that so far such studies have only focused on heart patients.
The cholesterol lowering drugs called Statins are not without side effects, liver function problems are one of the most common, and there was a higher rate of liver problems among the heart patients on the high dose aggressive therapy.
The patients in the study who got their LDL to 60 were on an aggressive therapy using the drug Atorvastatin (Lipitor), while those with an average LDL of 100 were taking the standard dose of Pravastastin (Pravachol).
This study was sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, makers of one of the drugs in the study, Pravachol.