London: Dropping cholesterol to the lowest level possible — to levels similar to those we were born with — may help reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke or fatal heart disease by nearly one third, a study has found.
Reducing cholesterol as low as possible is safe and more beneficial than the current normal levels — 100 mg/dL (deci-litres) or below — achieved with existing drugs such as statins, the study said.
However, participants in the study used a additional novel drug called alirocumab — for patients whose cholesterol levels are not sufficiently lowered by statins.
The combined effect of the new drug and the statin therapy in the trials meant that patients reached very low cholesterol – lower than 50 mg/dL — comparable to the levels we are born with.
For every 39 mg/dL reduction in low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — or ‘bad’ cholesterol — responsible for clogging arteries, the risk of heart attack — stroke, angina or death from heart disease — decreased by 24 per cent, the researchers observed.
“Experts have been uncertain whether very low cholesterol levels are harmful, or beneficial. This study suggests not only are they safe, but they also reduced risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke,” said lead author Kausik Ray, Professor at Imperial College London in Britain.
This lowest cholesterol levels is only achievable in adulthood, through medication, as well as lifestyle changes like healthy food and exercise, the researchers suggested.
For the study, published in the journal Circulation, the team analysed data from 10 trials, involving around 5,000 patients, diagnosed with high cholesterol.