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Knowing Heart Risk Keeps Patients on Cholesterol Drugs

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Letting patients know how cholesterol boosts their heart risks helps them stick to cholesterol-lowering treatment, Canadian researchers report.

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal enrolled more than 3,000 patients (2,687 completed the study) with cholesterol problems who were instructed to change their lifestyle and then prescribed cholesterol-lowering statin medications when necessary.

Of those patients, more than 1,500 were given a one-page computer printout of their probability for developing heart disease at the start of the study, and at follow-up visits three, six, nine and 12 months later.

At the end of the 12-month study, patients who'd received the heart disease risk profiles had small but significantly greater reductions in "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and their ratio of total cholesterol to "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels, the researchers said.

"Patients in the risk profile group were also more likely to reach lipid targets," the study authors wrote in the Nov. 26 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

"Communicating risk (of heart disease) is consistent with many of the recommendations to improve adherence, including enhancing self-monitoring and using the support of family and friends," the researchers concluded.

"Informing patients of their coronary risk may also increase the effectiveness of primary prevention by identifying individuals most likely to benefit from treatment while reassuring those at low risk. This information may also assist physicians in treatment selection while improving patient adherence," the research team wrote.

The study was funded by Pfizer Inc., which makes the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor. The authors have associations with a number of drug makers.

For more information, visit the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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