New guidelines for cholesterol-lowering drug you need to know

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control. Therefore, in order to help take on preventive measures, new statin recommendations have been set.

The guidelines were put together by the United States Preventive Services Task Force, regardless if people have heart disease or not. If you’re between the ages of 40 and 75 and you have at least one of these risk factors, statin could be for you.

Risk factors include the following:

  • high Cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • smokers
  • diabetics
  • people who have a 10 percent or greater risk of heart attack or stroke over the next 10 years.

Cardiologist Dr. Vivek Goswami of Heart Hospital of Austin says conceptually the recommendations are headed in the right direction because the risks are more personalized than they were previously.

Historically, Goswami says with low-density lipoprotein (LDL)numbers constantly changing, treating patients with high cholesterol had been a moving target using statins.

“I remember years ago when they had an absolute of an LDL of 160, that was considered high. Years later, they revised that to 130 is too high. Eventually, they got to 100 and even 70. And now with the latest recommendation, we are getting away from targeting specific LDL levels,” Dr. Goswami said. “That was very easy for patients and doctors to understand but the reality is that it is an overly simplistic way of deciding who has high cholesterol.”

Some side effects of statins include:

  • memory loss
  • muscle pain
  • liver problems
  • risk of diabetes.

Dr. Goswami says, ask yourself, ‘Does the benefit outweigh the risks?’ He says talking to your doctor about your needs is vital, even if you show no symptoms.

“Just because your cholesterol is normal doesn’t mean you don’t have heart disease,” Dr. Goswami said. “And conversely just because you have high cholesterol doesn’t mean you definitely have heart disease either, right? The risks are going to be higher than with someone who has high cholesterol, but it’s not absolute.”

He added, 80% of cardiovascular disease is preventable. Exercise, healthy diet and limiting alcohol are ways to help decrease your chance of stroke or heart attack in conjunction with the medication.

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Dr. Goswami says although cholesterol testing helps determine if you have heart disease, there isn’t a substitute for screening because it offers a more accurate diagnosis.


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