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The Latest on Cholesterol Levels

separator In the latest research on cholesterol, a study has shown that people who have had heart attacks or severe chest pain had more success preventing further problems when they took Lipitor, a stronger cholesterol-lowering drug, than when they took Pravachol, an older and less potent medication.

After two years, the patients on Lipitor had average LDL (bad) cholesterol levels of 62, and the ones taking Pravachol had average levels of 95. Current federal guidelines state that the goal is to get LDL under 100. In the study, the Lipitor patients experienced fewer new heart attacks, needed bypass surgery less frequently and were hospitalized for chest pain less frequently.

These results suggest that if you’ve had serious heart problems already, the lower you can get your cholesterol to go, the better off you may be. It’s not clear whether the same holds true for people who have not had a heart attack or severe chest pain. It may not be necessary to control cholesterol so aggressively for those people. Instead, some of the less potent medications, which carry fewer risks of side effects, may be the best choice for them. Studies that are going on now are testing that theory.

New England Journal of Medicine, 11 March 2004.
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