`Average' cholesterol may be too high

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Most people with heart disease have average, not high, blood cholesterol levels--below 240. Can they still benefit from lower cholesterol? Yes, says a new study.

More specifically, those who have had a heart attack can cut the risk of a subsequent heart attack by 24% and the risk of stroke by 31%. Those were the impressive results of five years of research on 4,159 men and women. Half took a cholesterol-lowering drug called pravastatin and half a placebo.

Besides suffering fewer fatal heart attacks, the pravastatin group required fewer angioplasties and coronary bypasses. Those with the highest LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels at the start saw the most benefit. All this suggests that perhaps "average" cholesterol levels are too high.

The New England Journal of Medicine, October 3, 1996.

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