Should you take cholesterol-lowerin
g drugs or not? The answer used to be easy: if your cholesterol level was above a certain number, you were prescribed statins to prevent heart disease and stroke. Below that number, you weren’t.
But new guidelines announced this week complicate the issue. They urge doctors to focus on risk factor – family history of heart disease, diabetes and even age and gender ¬¬– not just numbers when reaching for the prescription pad.
“It’s even complicated for cardiologists,” said Suffern heart expert Dr. Michael Innerfield.
The new guidelines could increase the number of people who take cholesterol-lowering drugs like Lipitor, which is now available as a generic.
“There is an extensive body of literature to support cholesterol lowering with statins,” said Dr. Franklin Zimmerman, senior attending cardiologist and director of critical care at Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow. “The exact level of lowering has been somewhat controversial.”
The new guidelines will prompt a lot of discussions between physicians and patients.
But some of the basic advice is likely to
remain the same.
“Maintain a healthy body weight, follow a Mediterranean diet, do the equivalent of a brisk walk for 30 minutes a day five days a week,” Innerfield advised. “That will do more for your heart than any statin.”