Raising 'Good Cholesterol' Not as Effective in Lowering Risk of Heart Attacks in Black Americans

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LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Marcus Wright has always been pretty active, but when he was 27, he felt some pressure in his chest and drove himself to the hospital.

"[The doctor] was like, 'Dude, you're having a heart attack,'" the now 41-year-old old said. "I'm like, 'Stop playing,' because I'm literally talking to you ... and he said, 'No, you're having a heart attack and we need to admit you.'"

It turned out Wright has a rare genetic mutation that affects his high-density lipoprotein (HDL) - the so -called "good cholesterol" that cleans blood fats from arteries.

"This specific gene mutation that he has resulted in, basically, a non-functional good cholesterol," said Dr. Sara Koenig with Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "So, even though it was there, it wasn't doing its job."

Nearly two in five people in the U.S. have high cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is considered the "bad cholesterol" and it's commonly thought having high levels of the "good cholesterol" versus the "bad" can protect you against heart disease, but new research shows that might not be the case for everyone.

While Wright's condition is rare, it adds to research in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that found higher levels of good cholesterol did not lower the risk of heart attacks in Black Americans.

Researchers emphasized the findings that lowering bad cholesterol should be more important in this group than increasing good cholesterol.

In the meantime, Koenig and her colleagues are now screening hundreds of existing drugs to see if any might work for people with Wright's specific gene mutation. It's research that might help scientists understand more about the role of good cholesterol.

"If my situation helps them in the future, it is all worth it," said Wright.

Because Black Americans are more likely to suffer from heart attacks due to high cholesterol, doctors say besides making efforts to lower LDL, pay close attention to other risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.

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