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The beneficial effect of statins is likely to result from their ability to reduce cholesterol induced atherogenesis, but novel mechanisms have also been found, such as their anti-inflammatory properties. Another possible mechanism for the benefit of statins follows from the fact that statin treatment increases the bioactivity of vascular nitric oxide (NO).1 The importance of this relates not only to the antiatherosclerotic effect of NO but also to the recently described effect of NO on the baroreflex. Indeed, NO synthase inhibition has been shown to produce baroreceptor dysfunction in humans.2 One could therefore hypothesise that statin mediated increases in vascular nitric oxide activity might also improve baroreflex sensitivity (BRS). If so, this could be a novel mechanism contributing to cardiac mortality reduction, since baroreflex dysfunction is well known to be a strong independent predictor of cardiac mortality.3
Ten otherwise healthy men (mean (SD) age 49.5 (8.7) years) with hypercholesterolaemia (at least > 7.5 mmol/l before starting cholesterol treatment) were recruited. Each subject provided informed consent in writing and the Tayside ethics committee on medical research approved the study. Subjects were studied on four occasions separated by three, six week periods during which they …