U.S.

New Guidelines Could Double Number of Americans On Statins

The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association released new guidelines to reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

New Guidelines Could Double Number of Americans On Statins
Bloomberg / Adam Reynolds
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Ever heard of statins? Well, even if you haven't, you might be taking taken them soon enough. New guidelines unveiled Tuesday from two of America's leading cardiovascular associations will make 70 million Americans eligible for the medication known for lowering cholesterol. 

The new guidelines, released by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, are a dramatic shift in how doctors treat high cholesterol and cardiovascular risk. Let's start with statins. (Via CBS)

"It basically interferes with the way cholesterol is made, absorbed and cleaned out of the body. If you interfere with that mechanism a bit, you can decrease someone's cholesterol." (Via CNN)

The calculus has changed so that if you have heart disease, type 1 or type 2 diabetes, a "bad" cholesterol level over 190, or if you're between 40-75 and have a 10-year risk for heart disease over 7.5 percent, you'll most likely be prescribed a statin. (Via HLN)

Previous guidelines focused on a series of goal targets for lowering "bad" cholesterol. The new, more aggresive game plan is based on a four-year review of evidence.

A writer for Forbes expla​ins, "The huge shift in thinking here is the idea that you don’t take a cholesterol drug or a blood pressure medication to fix your high cholesterol or high blood pressure but to lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke."

USA Today reports the new guidelines will expand the number of Americans that would be eligible to receive statin drugs from about 15.5 percent to 31 percent. That equates to more than 70 million Americans.

The new strategy isn't perfect — CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta says taking statins can cause muscle or liver problems and can even increase the risk of diabetes in some people. 

But the Los Angeles Times quotes a Cleveland Clinic Cardiologist who said, "The result should be fewer premature deaths and fewer patients disabled by heart attacks and strokes – although it will take years for such reductions to be tallied." 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 600,000 Americans die from heart disease every year.