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Statins in atherosclerosis: lipid-lowering agents with antioxidant capabilities

  • Robert S Rosenson
    Correspondence
    Tel.: +1-312-695-0013; fax: +1-312-695-0047.
    Affiliations
    Preventive Cardiology Center, Northwestern University, The Feinberg School of Medicine, 201 E. Huron Street, Galter Pavilion, Suite 11-120, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
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      Abstract

      Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is an established risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD). In the presence of oxidative stress LDL particles can become oxidized to form a lipoprotein species that is particularly atherogenic. Indeed, oxidized LDL (oxLDL) is pro-inflammatory, it can cause endothelial dysfunction and it readily accumulates within the arterial wall. Several factors may influence the susceptibility of LDL to oxidation, including its size and composition, and the presence of endogenous antioxidant compounds, such as α-tocopherol. Individuals with type 2 diabetes or the metabolic syndrome have high levels of oxidative stress and consequently are at an increased risk for cardiovascular events. Reducing oxidative stress has been proposed as a potential approach to prevent CHD and antioxidant vitamins have been employed with encouraging results in experimental models of atherosclerosis. However, clinical trials have not demonstrated consistent beneficial effects of antioxidants on cardiovascular outcomes. Statins (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors) are the first-line choice for lowering total and LDL cholesterol levels and they have been proven to reduce the risk of CHD. Recent data suggest that these compounds, in addition to their lipid-lowering ability, can also reduce the production of reactive oxygen species and increase the resistance of LDL to oxidation. It may be that the ability of statins to limit the oxidation of LDL contributes to their effectiveness at preventing atherosclerotic disease.

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