While it's not yet known exactly what role inflammation plays in heart disease, it's common amongst heart disease patients — and a new study could shed light on what lowering inflammation can do to prevent heart attacks.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that a drug that lowered inflammation levels without affecting cholesterol could also lower a person's risk for heart attacks.
For the study, 10,000 participants who had previously suffered heart attacks were randomly divided into two groups. One group was given a placebo, while the other was given doses of a drug called canakinumab, which treats arthritis by reducing the number of inflammatory chemicals in the blood.
After four years, researchers found that the participants who received the drug had a 15% lower chance of having a heart attack or stroke compared to those who took the placebo. Those who took canakinumab also had a 30% lower chance of needing an angioplasty or bypass surgery.
The researchers who conducted the study said in a press release that isolating inflammation as a variable for heart attack is groundbreaking. It's long been believed that cholesterol is a main factor in heart disease risk — and while that's true, it's certainly interesting that reducing inflammation alone was able to make such a difference.
"For the first time, we've been able to definitively show that lowering inflammation independent of cholesterol reduces cardiovascular risk," lead researcher Paul M. Ridker, MD, said in the statement. "This has far-reaching implications. By leveraging an entirely new way to treat patients — targeting inflammation — we may be able to significantly improve outcomes for certain very high risk populations."
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