Health Watch -- More Drug Benefits

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A drug commonly taken to help lower cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease may have even more benefits. It could be keeping your bones stronger.

Last year, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas reported that statins may also help prevent Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Gloria Vega, the researcher who led the study, said that reducing cholesterol levels in the brain may decrease the production of the amyloid plaques in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease.

But a more recent study by California researchers found that patients who took drugs in the statin class for cholesterol lowering had a lower risk of hip fractures and a lower risk of non-spinal fractures. Researchers plan additional clinical trials to test the bone-strengthening benefits of statins.

Statins are among the most effective and most widely used drugs for lowering cholesterol. They work by keeping the body from producing cholesterol. The body needs some cholesterol in order to function, so it has to take cholesterol from the bloodstream. That lowers blood cholesterol so that cholesterol plaques are less likely to form along artery walls. Heart attacks and strokes occur when plaques block blood vessels.