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Aug 18, 2014

Changes in Statin-Use Based on New Guidelines

Doctors should change the way they prescribe cholesterol-lowering statins, based on new guidelines designed to help patients prevent heart attack and stroke.

Doctors may change the way they prescribe cholesterol-lowering statins, based on new treatment guidelines issued by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association.

Released in 2013, these guidelines are designed to help patients prevent heart attack and stroke by controlling cholesterol levels more effectively. As authors state, nearly one-third of the U.S. population will die from heart attack or stroke and helping patients manage cholesterol levels could save millions of lives each year.

The 2013 guidelines were based on evidence from gold-standard research studies, compiled by experts appointed by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association. And among a few key updates covered in these recommendations, the biggest change is regarding statin use to reduce risk for heart attack and stroke.

In the past, guidelines recommend that patients should achieve certain goals related to cholesterol, using any combination of lifestyle changes and medication to reach these targets. Why? Research suggested that as long as patients achieve an ideal low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol, they can significantly reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke.

However, updated guidelines now suggest that based on risk for heart attack and stroke, patients should take a certain dose of statins to reduce their cardiovascular risk. Based on these recommendations, patients at low, intermediate and high risk should all take a specific dose of statins, regardless of how the medication impacts their cholesterol levels.

Of course, these recommendations were based on evidence suggesting that this strategy will be more effective in controlling cholesterol and reducing cardiovascular risk in patients. And because of this shift, more patients will be eligible for cholesterol-lowering medication than ever before. More than one-third of American adults have high cholesterol and only one in three adults with high cholesterol has their condition under control. The goal of the 2013 guidelines is to identify patients with high cardiovascular risk and use cholesterol-lowering medication to prevent potentially life-threatening heart events.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What are statins?
  • Statins are drugs used to lower cholesterol. They help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol, which can help prevent heart attack and stroke. Statins prevent your body from making new cholesterol and may help reduce the amount of plaque already built up on artery walls.
  • How do I know if I have high cholesterol?

  • High cholesterol has no symptoms, so it is important to have your cholesterol tested regularly by your doctor. Based on results from a lipid panel, your doctor can tell you if you have regular, borderline or high cholesterol levels.

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Featured Video

LDL – the bad cholesterol. LDL is the cholesterol that gums up your arteries and causes the buildup of blockages. It’s also the cholesterol that is toxic to the lining of your arteries, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.