You or someone you know may be taking statins - drugs used to lower cholesterol. Statins have been successful in preventing cardiovascular disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke.
This past fall, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released new guidelines for preventing heart disease and stroke. It’s important to understand these guidelines so you can have a conversation with your health care provider about whether you should consider statin therapy.
Dr. John W. Shuck, Bayhealth cardiologist, helps explain the new guidelines.
What do these guidelines mean?
Our goal is to prevent heart disease and stroke. The new guidelines focus on 4 main areas: obesity, cholesterol, lifestyle, and risk assessment (or how likely you are to experience a stroke or other heart-related problem). Your health care provider will use a special calculation to help determine what risk factors you have.
What is new in these guidelines?
We now have a helpful formula to measure risk in African-American patients, a group who tends to have more heart disease and stroke than the general population.
We now believe that a wider range of patients would benefit from statin therapy. For example, the guidelines recommend statins for patients who have had a stroke.
What has changed?
You may remember your health care provider discussing your cholesterol “numbers,” or levels of LDL and HDL cholesterol. Previous guidelines focused on getting the LDL below a certain level.
Now, the overall picture is more important than a single number. Your health care provider will help you look at all parts of your lifestyle and decide whether statins could help you.
If you have family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, or you are a smoker, statins may be advised.
Are statins safe? Are they expensive?
Statins are one of the most-researched medications we have available. Other drugs also lower cholesterol, but statins are the group of drugs we know the most about.
Research studies have included thousands of patients, over many years.
It is also widely believed that statins have other beneficial qualities.
Side effects are generally accepted to be very low.
Generic versions of statins are very effective and can keep costs low. A 3-month supply of statins can cost you around $10 at local pharmacies. Your health care provider can help you find affordable solutions.
Are there other changes I can make to improve my heart health instead of taking pills?
While adding physical activity to your daily routine will make a major change in your heart health, you may need medication to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Statins can help you take the first step towards a healthier cardiovascular system. In conjunction with this, make a point to walk 30 minutes each day.
If you have questions about whether statins are right for you, talk to your health care provider. If you need a provider, call 1-866-BAY-DOCS.