Heart Beat: Statins don't stop aortic valve narrowing

Heart Beat

Statins don't stop aortic valve narrowing ...

Narrowing of the aortic valve, the trapdoor through which blood leaves the heart, is one of the most common heart problems among the elderly. In most patients, this problem, called aortic stenosis, is caused by the buildup of calcium on the springy doors (leaflets) of the valve. This makes them stiff and hampers the flow of blood. If the valve opening gets too narrow, it can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting spells, or even sudden death.

A corroded aortic valve can be fixed by replacing it with a new one, but the problem can't yet be prevented. Researchers had hoped that aortic stenosis could be stopped by statins, the cholesterol-reducing drugs that seem good for almost anything that ails you these days. Microscopic examination of the heart valve leaflets of individuals with aortic stenosis showed changes that looked a lot like atherosclerosis, while other studies showed that people with high cholesterol levels were more likely to develop aortic stenosis than those with normal cholesterol.

Unfortunately, Scottish researchers reported disappointing results with statin therapy in the June 9, 2005, New England Journal of Medicine. They randomly assigned 155 people with aortic stenosis to either high doses of atorvastatin (Lipitor) or a placebo, and followed them for three years. The rate of aortic valve narrowing was no slower in the statin group than it was in the placebo group.

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