Coronary atherosclerosis when arteries become clogged and hardened may not have the direct link to heart disease that everyone supposes, say doctors from the prestigious Mayo Clinic.
Although death from heart disease fell dramatically in the US and other countries between 1980 and 1989, cases of coronary atherosclerosis remained stable, they say.
If the textbooks are correct, a similar drop in athersclerosis should also have been recorded, because severity of the disease has always been seen as a major indicator of survival from heart disease.
While cholesterol levels among their patients fell during the nine year period, the prevalence of coronary artery disease remained fairly stable, at 35 per cent in 1980-1, 37 per cent in 1982-3, 34 per cent in 1984-5, 37 per cent in 1986-7, and 35 per cent in 1988-9. During the same period, death from heart disease fell by 23 per cent, according to one American study. This latest research provides further proof that high cholesterol levels may not be responsible for hardened arteries and heart disease.
!AN Eng J Med 1996; 335: 316-22.