Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cholesterol Medications Linked to Eye Disease

Many patients balk at the prospect of taking cholesterol lowering medications. The benefits, according to studies, are profound, but worries persist about the ill effects. Many patients report muscle aches, fatigue, and even memory loss. Lowering cholesterol too much has even been associated with a possible link to cancer. According to a new study, statins (cholesterol lowering drugs) might hasten the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that leads to blindness and affects more than ten million Americans.

The researchers looked at data from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study to determine if statins have a beneficial effect on protecting the eyes from macular degeneration and glaucoma, as previously suggested. A study from 2006 found that the drugs may improve blood flow in the retinal arteries and veins, reducing the risk of all eye diseases associated with impaired ocular circulation.

The study was presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology 2008 Annual Meeting, following an analysis of 1266 subjects who were followed for eleven years. The patients had neovascular AMD and/or central geographic atrophy (CGA). CGA is a condition that causes loss of vision in the center of the eye, and neovascular AMD refers to an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the macula of the eye.

The researchers found that AMD advanced in 481 patients, 323 developed AMD, and 233 experienced CGA. The authors concluded that the use of cholesterol lowering drugs seemed to promote advanced neurovascular age-related macular degeneration.

Caution is urged regarding the study: "We are not saying that statins are a risk factor in the progression of age-related AMD. There are a lot of confounding variables. But what this study shows is that they don't seem to have a beneficial effect.”

Despite the findings, Dr Frederick L Ferris III (National Eye Institute) says, “We don't want patients to be concerned about the effects of statins on their eyes”. Statins still have well documented effects on the lives of patients.

Dr. John T Thompson (University of Maryland, Baltimore) said during an interview, "The significance here is that there have been conflicting reports as to whether statins are protective, and this study says that they are not. There needs to be further studies to sort this out."

Sources: The Use of Statins and the Development of AMD in AREDS

Statins improve blood flow in the retinal arteries and veins

More Evidence that Marijuana May be Linked to Heart Attack

The results of a small study, published online May 13, 2008 in Molecular Psychiatry, has researchers speculating that chronic, heavy marijuana use leads to major increases in triglyceride levels. Dr. Subramaniam Jayanthi from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and colleagues, say the finding may be the reason marijuana has a negative impact on the cardiovascular system. The results of past studies have linked marijuana to increased risk of heart attack, especially in mid-life, but exactly why this occurs is speculative.

The study authors say that marijuana creates a resistance to blood flow. Senior author Dr Jean Luc Cadet (National Institute on Drug Abuse) explained, "A lot of people in cardiology have probably not been following the literature on marijuana, as most of it comes from the perspective of the neurologist or neuropsychiatrist. But in researching this topic, we came across a lot of papers suggesting that marijuana has acute cardiovascular effects, and we ourselves published a paper in 2005 showing that heavy marijuana users had increased resistance to brachial flow."

We know that heart disease risk can be measured by several inflammatory biomarkers that promote clot formation in the lining of the blood vessels. In one study, it was shown that transient spikes in triglyceride levels from diet can cause enough inflammation to immediately increase our risk of heart attack. The current study found that marijuana users experience increased levels of ApoC3, a major lipoprotein that delays the breakdown of triglycerides.

The study is admittedly small, but Dr. Cadet is encouraging physicians to ask their patients about marijuana use to measure their risk factors for heart attack and stroke. He hopes to also see larger studies. “Doctors should ask patients about a history of drug abuse, and if they have been smoking marijuana, it may be worth checking triglyceride levels."

In conclusion, the authors say: "The observed increases in apolipoprotein C3 in the marijuana users hint of the possibility that chronic marijuana abuse could lead to impairments of cellular energetics and mitochondrial function, which are critical events associated with myocardial infarction, stroke, and ischemic/reperfusion damage."

Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels in check by avoiding processed food. Stay away from Trans -fats, cholesterol laden foods and saturated fat. Avoid tobacco and get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week. Alcohol is also known to increase triglyceride levels.

If you smoke marijuana, speak with your medical provider about your health risks. If you experience chest pain associated with smoking marijuana, the study presented here should provide some genuine insight about the potential dangers to your heart.

Source: HeartWire

Related: Smoking Marijuana May Increase Risk of Dying After a Heart Attack