NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Doctors may soon have an important new weapon in the fight against heart disease and stroke. It's a kind of super fish oil that lowers a risky type of blood fat.
It was about two years ago that Raj Buddhavarapu got some concerning blood test results.
"My triglycerides were around 600… it can cause heart disease," Buddhavarapu said.
Raj is a doctor himself, so he knew that he had to lower his triglycerides, but virtually every drug or fish oil that's been tried to lower triglycerides also raises cholesterol.
Fish oil is a combination of omega-3 fatty acids called DHA and EPA. EPA is what you want.
"EPA alone does not raise LDL cholesterol. It is so-called 'LDL neutral,'" Dr. Howard Weintraub of NYU Langone Health told CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez.
It turns out there's an FDA-approved drug called Vascepa that's a highly purified fatty acid. It's been known to lower triglycerides and major clinical trials just released show that Vascepa also lowers the risk for heart attack and stroke by 25 percent.
Cardiologists say this could have a very big impact on heart disease and stroke prevention.
"A third of the country has triglycerides over 200. That's a lot of people," Dr. Weintraub explained. "Those people who are overweight, particularly abdominal obesity, those who are diabetics, or as I call diabetics in training, pre-diabetics, these are the individuals who typically are going to have elevated triglycerides."
Raj Buddhavarapu has been on Vascepa for two years now.
"My triglycerides are down to 300 and my cholesterol is good," Buddhavarapu reported.
This is not a benefit you can get from standard fish oil. This is a very pure form of the component of fish oil that has a benefit without raising your cholesterol.
Luckily, it is already FDA-approved and relatively inexpensive, as heart medications go.
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