New guidelines issued by an independent panel of health experts on Monday, December 21 advocate statins for adults aged 40 and upwards.
Statins, which are currently administered to approximately 36 million people in the United States, are normally prescribed by physicians so that patients can keep their cholesterol levels within normal limits, in order to diminish the probability of suffering a heart attack or a stroke.
Now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has issued an advisory note for individuals aged 40 to 75. More precisely, those included in this age group, who are aware that they have a higher likelihood or developing cardiovascular disease, should take at least a low dose of statins such as Lipitor or Zocor.
During 2011, the number of people who have died due to strokes, heart attacks and other similar conditions was of around 787,000, as estimated by the American Heart Association.
Given that there is such a high mortality associated with cardiovascular diseases, experts at the American College of Cardiology (ACA), in conjunction with the American Heart Association (AHA) have developed an algorithm which assesses one’s probability of having a heart attack or a stroke in the next 10 years.
The calculation is based on the Framingham Risk score, and takes into account known contributing factors for coronary heart disease, such as advanced age, race, elevated blood pressure, smoking, high triglyceride and total cholesterol levels, as well as pre-existing conditions such as diabetes.
The online tool can be accessed at http://www.cvriskcalculator.com/ and if results specify that the individual’s risk is around 10% higher than the average, then statins should definitely be administered.
In fact, even those with a risk of at least 7.5% could take such cholesterol-lowering drugs, provided that their physician believes this type of preventive treatment would be advisable.
The guidelines stem from a total of 18 studies that have been conducted so as to evaluate the potency of statins when it comes to protecting those who are yet to experience a stroke or a heart attack.
During these trials, it was determined that this medicine can reduce the likelihood of suffering a heart attack by around 37%, while also curbing the incidence of strokes by approximately 28% and lowering the risk of developing other cardiovascular issues by 31%.
At the same time, while there were indeed certain adverse reactions associated with the use of statins, such as muscle pain, liver damage, heightened blood sugar levels, memory loss and digestive issues, scientists came to the conclusion that advantages were much more significant than potential hazards.
In fact, according to Dr. Sekar Kathiresan, director of preventive cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, the recent guidelines are in keeping with prior counsels formulated back in 2013.
At the time, AHA and AMA experts stated that cholesterol medication should be taken by diabetics aged between 40 and 75, and by people from the same age category who are at least 7.5% more at risk of having a heart attack or a stroke, or who have already experienced such incidents.
They also recommended statins for younger individuals with excessively elevated LDL (“bad” cholesterol).
As emphasized by Dr. Douglas Owens, director of the Center for Primary Care and Outcome Research at Stanford University, while these pills can’t entirely counter the effects of a harmful lifestyle, they can supplement the benefits resulting from keeping a healthy diet and exercising on a regular basis.
On the other hand, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force hasn’t found enough conclusive evidence to suggest that statins could be safely and effectively used by children and teenagers who have high cholesterol levels, which is why it hasn’t issued any recommendations for this particular age group.
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