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Heart patients gain from steep cholesterol drop

Heart patients can lessen their risk of a heart attack and increase their odds of survival by aggressively reducing harmful low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in their blood, a new study shows.

Researchers identified 4,162 men and women who had just had a heart attack or severe chest pain. The scientists randomly assigned half the volunteers to get the standard dose of the anticholesterol drug pravastatin or an elevated dose of the more potent statin drug atorvastatin.

The drugs go by the trade names Pravachol and Lipitor, respectively. The study didn't evaluate the effect of higher-than-normal doses of pravastatin. About two-thirds of the patients in each group subsequently underwent procedures to improve flow in their coronary arteries.

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