Canadian scientists have nailed a protein behind high levels of bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL), elevating the risk of heart disease. "The possibilities for improved therapy for the causes of cardiovascular disease are very important," says Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Beth Abramson.
The research proves that the protein in question, Resistin, secreted by fat tissue, increases the production of LDL in human liver cells and also degrades LDL receptors in the liver, hampering the organ from clearing "bad" cholesterol.
Resistin accelerates the accumulation of LDL in arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Shirya Rashid, senior study author and assistant professor of medicine at McMaster University, warned that a staggering 40 percent of people taking statins are resistant to their impact on lowering blood LDL.
"The bigger implication of our results is that high blood resistin levels may be the cause of the inability of statins to lower patients' LDL cholesterol," says Rashid, according to a Mcmaster's statement.
She believes the discovery could lead to revolutionary new therapeutic drugs, especially those that target and inhibit resistin and thereby increase the effectiveness of statins.
High blood cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. It can lead to a buildup of plaque in the artery walls and narrowing of the arteries, causing a condition called atherosclerosis which can make it more difficult for blood to flow through the heart and body.
Being overweight also increases the likelihood of high blood pressure and diabetes, compounding the risks of heart disease and stroke.
She notes the research reconfirms the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and cholesterol level, two critical factors in the prevention of heart disease.
"Fortunately, we know a great deal about heart disease prevention and how to reverse some of the risks," says Abramson.
She urges Canadians to maintain their heart health through regular visits to their doctor, monitoring their weight and waist size, eating a variety of nutritious, low-fat foods and being physically active.
"It is equally important to take your medications as directed by your physician to help further reduce risks."
These findings were presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress.