Recent changes in recommendations have a lot of people asking... Should I be taking a statin?
Statins are medications that are used to help lower your cholesterol. Studies have shown that elevated cholesterol levels increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Recently, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology release new recommendations for prescribing cholesterol lowering statins like Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor to name a few. Not all cholesterol is bad, however. It is an essential fat that supports the body’s cells and the human body needs cholesterol to function. It is found in certain foods and is also made naturally by the body. Sometimes however people end up with too much cholesterol.
Until recently, patients who had a blood cholesterol level less than 200 were considered to be at a lower risk for coronary heart disease and stroke than a patient who had a cholesterol level above 240—regardless of their risk factors. A patient with a blood cholesterol level above 240 has twice the risk of coronary heart disease than a patient who has a level below 200.
“Most physicians have always weighed the benefits and risks of medications when assessing their patients for heart disease, up until now, the recommendations for prescribing cholesterol medication have always been based on number, below 200 is good over 240 is bad,” said Westchester Medical Center Cardiologist Tanya Dutta. “New guidelines not only look at risk factors but include a patient’s age and their actual risk for having a heart attack or stroke in the future—so it is not only about a number. This will certainly allow a huge segment of the population with relatively normal cholesterol levels, who may not have been a candidate for statins in the past—based on just their number, to benefit from these medications. Of course, all of these recommendations should be coupled talking to your physician, eating right, exercising, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.”