A representational image of a bacon cheeseburger. Pixabay, public domain

A newly developed drug could help your heart by targeting your liver, according to a new study. High cholesterol is dangerous in the world of the heart because the fat might build up in your arteries and block blood flow, increasing your risk of a heart attack. But making the change to a better diet and lifestyle does not always have immediate results.

That’s where evolocumab comes in: According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, it can lower bad cholesterol levels by about 60 percent within a year. Although the authors wrote that “whether it prevents cardiovascular events is uncertain,” the thousands of study participants were less likely to experience “cardiovascular events” during a follow-up period of a little more than two years, so the drug holds potential for preventing heart attacks and strokes in heart patients.

Read: 5 of the Best Countries for Health Care Around the World

People with high cholesterol usually take drugs called statins, which the Mayo Clinic says block “a substance your body needs to make cholesterol” and help reduce the fatty deposits that have built up inside your blood vessels. The U.S. National Library of Medicine describes them as “[interfering] with the production of cholesterol in your liver.”

Evolocumab similarly targets the liver, one of your body’s filters, by blocking a protein in the organ called PCSK9 that plays a role in how much cholesterol is in your bloodstream. Specifically, that protein controls how many receptors on the surface of your liver are available to bind to the bad cholesterol.

According to news service UPI, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug for sale a couple of years ago.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.

“It is much more effective than statins,” Peter Sever, a study organizer from Imperial College London, told BBC News. “The end result was cholesterol levels came down and down and down and we’ve seen cholesterol levels lower than we have ever seen before in the practice of medicine.” The people in the study were taking statins already and “they would have another 20 percent reduction in risk and that is a big effect.”

Because the study was not performed over a longer period of time, the true effect on heart disease outcomes is not yet known.

“They will probably not [replace statins],” Sever told the BBC. “There are an awful lot of people with really quite high cholesterol out there and we’ll probably need more than one drug to get their levels down.”

See also:

Nerds are More Likely to Survive a Heart Attack

Would You Ride in a Driverless Ambulance?