People with known coronary heart disease who follow a heart-healthy diet and weight-loss regimen may get more heart benefits by adding medications that raise HDL (high-density lipoproteins or "good" cholesterol) levels, according to a new study.
Researchers studied 143 patients younger than 76 with low HDL and known coronary artery disease. All participants in the study followed a heart-healthy diet and lost weight. However, results showed those who were given drugs (niacin, gemfibrozil and cholesteraline) to raise HDL levels had lower overall cholesterol levels, higher HDL levels, and fewer cardiovascular problems than those taking a placebo.
Since all lipid profiles improved, researchers say it is not clear whether the increase in HDL or the decrease in LDL ("bad" cholesterol) accounted for the positive changes in artery health. Thus researchers say a combination regimen aimed at increasing HDL cholesterol levels improves cholesterol profiles and helps prevent angiographic progression of coronary stenosis, and may prevent cardiovascular events in some people who exercise regularly and eat low-fat diets.