New medical guidelines issued late last year have significantly increased the number of people who might need to take these cholesterol-lowering drugs. But not all experts agree with the new recommendations.
According to the new guidelines issued by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) approximately 12.8 million more Americans likely would be advised to take statins. The majority of the increase would be older adults who do not have cardiovascular disease.
Statins are drugs that are used to lower cholesterol. Some cholesterol is necessary for your body to work correctly. But too much cholesterol in your bloodstream can stick to the walls of blood vessels. Over time, this can restrict or completely block the flow of blood.
Some people are able to reduce their overall cholesterol level through changes in diet and exercise. If this doesn’t work, the doctor may prescribe statins to lower your cholesterol.
Based on the revised ACC/AHA guidelines, nearly half of all people in the United States over the age of 40 may soon receive prescriptions for statins. That is approximately double the number of people currently taking the drugs.
The changes are based on a new focus in analyzing statistics with a broader assessment of heart attack and stroke risks.
Some cardiologists are concerned that the recommendations do not take into consideration the gender of the patient. They believe too many women are currently taking statins which they say may cause more serious side effects in women than men, with fewer benefits.
Dr. Rita Redberg, a cardiologist at the University of San Francisco and editor of JAMA Internal Medicine, does not believe lowering cholesterol should be an end unto itself for women because cholesterol may not play the same role in heart disease risks for women as it does for men.
Redberg said, “You can have high cholesterol and still be really healthy and have a low risk of heart disease.”
Although women make up over half the total population, they have been traditionally underrepresented in clinical trials of statins.