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An article in the journal Science shows that cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Mevacor, Zocor, Pravachol and Lescol strengthen bones (1).

Fosamax, that is advertised to strengthen bones and Mevacor, that is advertised to lower cholesterol, both lower cholesterol and strengthen bones. In 1995, a study in Cardiology showed that the most effective treatment to clear arteriosclerotic plaques from arteries may be a combination of a low-fat diet; the cholesterol blocking agent, lovastatin; and the bone strengthening chemical, etidronate (2). Mevacor-like drugs that lower cholesterol also strengthen bones in the same way that Fosamax, the bone strengthener, does.

Bones are always changing . Bone cells called osteoblasts add calcium to bones, then osteoclasts pull the calcium out of bones. All day long calcium is being driven into and out of bone. The drugs to lower cholesterol and the drugs to strengthen bones both block osteoclasts from breaking down bone.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, know that the drug lovastatin helps to prevent the liver from making cholesterol. They also know that x-rays of fatty plaques show heavy calcification and that fatty plaques in arteries look under the microscope exactly like formed bone (3). The drug etidronate is used to treat osteoporosis, or bone softening, because it helps bones pick up and use extra calcium. They thought that etidronate may also help to remove calcium from arteriosclerotic plaques. Accordingly, they tried several different treatments to clear plaques from the arteries of rabbits and found that the combination of the drug to remove calcium with the one to remove cholesterol got rid of the most plaques.

The most common type of heart attack occurs when a clot forms in the coronary arteries that are already blocked by fatty plaques. People who already have plaques in their arteries and those who have had heart attacks should be strongly encouraged to change their lifestyles to include controlled exercise and a diet that is very low in total fat and saturated fat but rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Many studies show that arteriosclerotic plaques can be absorbed from the walls of your arteries, but doctors do not agree on the best way to do this.

1) Science December, 1999.

2) BQ Zhu, YP Sun, RE Sievers, WM Isenberg, TJ Moorehead, WW Parmley. Effects of etidronate and lovastatin on the regression of atherosclerosis in cholesterol-fed rabbits. Cardiology 1994(Nov-Dec);85(6):370-377.

3) K Bostrom, KE Watson, WP Stanford, LL Demer. Atherosclerotic calcification: Relation to developmental osteogenesis. American Journal of Cardiology 75: 6 (FEB 231995):B88-B91. Calcium deposits of atherosclerotic plaque consist of hydroxyapatite and may appear identical to fully formed lamellar bone, including trabeculae, lacunae, and areas resembling marrow.

May 29th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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