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Boosting The Good And Lowering The Bad In Texas

Aug 17, 2007
Although it's been suspected, researchers have shown for the first time that raising "good" cholesterol levels is almost as important as lowering levels of "bad" cholesterol to help individuals in Dallas, Houston and elsewhere in Texas reduce heart-threatening plaque in arteries.

The value of lowering LDL is well known. But scientists have been unsure about the merits of raising HDL when it comes to atherosclerosis, or the accumulation of plaque in the lining of the arteries. It is presently unclear whether the strategy will translate into fewer heart attacks and other negative cardiovascular events.

The challenge now is to find safe ways to elevate HDL even more than is currently possible with the widely used drugs called statins. Dr. Gregory Dehmer, professor of internal medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and director of the cardiology division at Scott & White Hospital, added, "It's almost been the holy grail to treat LDL in patients, and most take statins for that. Many clinicians stop with LDL and don't continue to aggressively attack HDL. This points up the need to aggressively address HDL and to not give up the cause."

"A little bit of HDL -- high-density lipoprotein, or "good" cholesterol -- goes a long way. A small increase in HDL produces nearly as much of a benefit as LDL -- low-density lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol -- reduction," said Dr. Steve Nissen, senior author of the study and chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. "In general, when we've found a therapy that slowed progression of disease, that translated into major clinical benefits. This makes a lot of sense."

"We've always known that statins were very good at lowering LDL, and we knew that they increased HDL a little bit, about 7 to 8 percent," Nissen said. "That seemed to most of us to be fairly trivial, so we've already attributed the benefit of statins primarily to the lowering of bad cholesterol. But, we've always wondered whether that little bit of an increase in HDL was important as well."

In a new study, published in the Feb. 7, 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers revisited four previously conducted studies involving 1,455 participants. All patients had coronary artery disease and were taking statins. They underwent two ultrasound exams 18 moths to 24 months apart to determine changes in the amount of plaque in a coronary artery. Participants who both raised their good cholesterol levels and achieved very low bad cholesterol levels showed evidence of the most plaque removal.

"People were concerned about the HDL hypothesis, but this shows the hypothesis is sound," Nissen said. "This helps to nail down the fact that at least with respect to progression of disease, the HDL-raising properties of the statins are important."

According to another a new study in the latest issue of Human Communication Research, writing about affectionate feelings for loved ones may have health benefits for the heart. Participants in the study spent three 20-minute sessions writing about their loved ones over a five-week period and exhibited significantly lower cholesterol levels than their peers.

"High cholesterol is a chronic health problem for millions of Americans," says study author Kory Floyd. "Although many pharmaceutical medications exist to treat this condition, our research shows promise for an additional, non-medical treatment that could provide an added benefit to these patients." Floyd acknowledges that additional research needs to be completed to confirm the benefits in patients.

According to Floyd, this research is particularly interesting because it highlights the effects of showing affection. "There are many studies showing that patients benefit from receiving care and attention during illness," says Floyd. "Our research shows that it's as rewarding to give as it is to receive."

The battle to raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol should begin while you're young and healthy, through diet and lifestyle changes.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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