Why statins may be not enough to prevent heart disease

It is known that high cholesterol levels in the body are a big risk factor for heart disease.

To lower cholesterol levels, patients take statins, which are the most widely used cholesterol-lowering drugs.

However, despite the statin treatment, many patients with elevated cholesterol levels will still develop heart disease.

In a new study, researchers found how cholesterol and the immune system can interact to increase heart disease risk.

The finding supports the role of the immune system in the development of artery diseases and provides a novel explanation for this residual heart disease risk.

The research was conducted by a team from the Netherlands.

In the study, the team examined the activity of a part of the immune system in individuals with and without high cholesterol levels.

They found specific immune cells in the blood (monocytes) were more activated in people with high cholesterol levels than in people with normal cholesterol levels.

These immune cells produced more inflammatory molecules that are important in the development of heart disease.

The patients with high cholesterol took statins to lower cholesterol levels and the team measured their heart health three months later.

The team found despite cholesterol lowering, the hyperactivity of the immune cells did not decrease at all.

They explain that the immune cells can ‘remember’ the high cholesterol they once were exposed to.

This phenomenon is called ‘trained immunity,’ and this is the first study to demonstrate this in patients.

Future work will examine how long this memory lasts, and also whether the hyperactivity of the immune cells can be reduced by other drug types, such as anti-inflammatory drugs.

The lead author of the study is Siroon Bekkering, Radboud university medical center, Nijmegen.

The study is published in Cell Metabolism.

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