Health Buzz: Cholesterol Drug Crestor's Coup and Other Health News

Asthma inhalers, green fitness routines, and 7 things Obama might do for women's health.

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Statin Crestor Found to Protect Heart in People With Inflammation and Normal Cholesterol

Half of all heart attack victims have perfectly normal cholesterol levels, and many have no risk factors at all. Experts have recently come to believe that one hidden culprit is chronic inflammation, which turns arteries into plaque magnets. But they haven't known whether treating inflammation could actually protect the heart. A new landmark finding suggesting that is the case could affect millions of seemingly healthy people, Deborah Kotz reports.

If confirmed in further studies, the research, published in the current New England Journal of Medicine, could transform screening for heart disease. Nearly 18,000 people with normal cholesterol levels and no heart disease but high levels of inflammation (as measured by a marker called C-reactive protein) were randomly assigned to take either the cholesterol-lowering statin known as Crestor, which has anti-inflammatory effects, or a placebo. Over two to five years of treatment, the people taking a statin had about a 50 percent lower risk of heart attack or stroke and a 20 percent lower risk of dying of any cause compared with those who took placebos. They also had a 46 percent lower rate of bypass surgeries and angioplasties.

Crestor isn't the only drug that may fight inflammation. In October, Sarah Baldauf listed 12 things you should know about aspirin, which is one of the cheapest anti-inflammatory drugs available.

Change Is Coming for Asthma Rescue Inhalers

After December 31, asthmatics will no longer be able to purchase albuterol or levalbuterol rescue inhalers that use chlorofluorocarbon propellants since the inhalers are being phased out because of concern about their effect on Earth's ozone layer. Starting January 1, manufacturers of these inhalers may sell only devices that use hydrofluoroalkane, or HFA, propellants, which are considered to be more environmentally friendly, HealthDay reports. Asthmatics should be aware that the new inhalers may feel different when used than CFC inhalers do, and they may be more expensive.

Marianne Lavelle reported last year in U.S. News on how the inhaler rule is hitting asthma patients in the pocketbook. In October, U.S. News suggested taking photos of your home to document potential asthma and allergy triggers and provided a second look at a type of asthma medication.

How Green Is Your Fitness Routine?

Runner's World recently ran a package on the not-insignificant environmental impact of running. The eye-opening feature tracks the manufacture and transport of just one pair of running shoes. Still, it's better to exercise than to sit on the sofa, depressed about the ecological impact of going for a run, writes Katherine Hobson. Pretty much everything we do has some negative environmental consequences. Earlier this year, researchers suggested that the obese actually contribute more to global warming and food scarcity than do the thin. Runner's World offers tips on how to be a greener runner, many of which are applicable to other sports and activities, too.

In September, Hobson offered advice on how to train as race day approaches. She also explained how to know when it's time to bench yourself.

7 Things Obama's Win Could Mean for Women's Health

Women's health activists are fist-bumping each other over President-elect Barack Obama's slam-dunk win, and they're hoping that he'll reverse some of the policies put in place by President Bush. Last week, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz talked with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, who predicted seven things that would change in the new administration.

In September, Kotz explained your rights versus your doctor's rights. Last year, she described the pill's price on campus.

—January W. Payne