In the United States, statin therapy is recommended for people 40 to 75 years old without cardiovascular disease and have a 7.5 percent or higher risk for stroke or heart attack within a decade; those aged 21 years old and older who have a very high LDL cholesterol level of 190 mg/dL or above and those with similar risks.
A new vaccine has been found to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol, raising hopes the injection could prove more powerful than statins.
High cholesterol rates are a growing health concern for millions of Americans as they can lead to blocked arteries and increase the risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is naturally produced by the liver and is a form of fat found in the bloodstream that helps build cell walls and produce hormones. Prescriptions for statins and other drugs are among the most common treatments. LDL cholesterol or “the big, bad” cholesterol can work around you body’s normal functions and attach itself to the arteries. Researchers are still testing out the vaccine on animals and, should the results continue to be as encouraging as they have been so far, they could begin human trials soon. People who do not produce the protein have a decreased risk of heart disease, while a few with mutations in the protein are more prone to developing cardiac conditions.
The testing done on mice and a small group of monkeys yielded positive results in reducing LDL cholesterol.
Until then, exercise, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking can also help prevent high, unwanted levels of cholesterol in the first place.
The new cholesterol vaccine targets PCSK9, a protein that regulates blood cholesterol. This particular enzyme is responsible for regulating cholesterol levels in our body. The vaccine against bad LDL cholesterol needs to be tested in clinical trials with human patients, however, before the true benefits and possible side effects can be determined. Incorporating healthier habits also decreases already high levels of cholesterol.
Dr Bryce Chackerian, one of the study’s authors from the University of New Mexico, said: ‘One of the most exciting things about this new vaccine is it seems to be much more effective than statins alone’. However, if natural treatment approaches fail, doctors turn to statins to help keep their patients’ cholesterol levels under control.
While statins are effective, they also can have intolerable side effects, such as muscle pain, increased risk of diabetes, and cognitive loss. “Although they are effective in many people, they do have side effects and don’t work for everyone. The results of our vaccine were very striking, and suggest it could be a powerful new treatment for high cholesterol”.