If you're high risk for a heart attack but your cholesterol isn't high enough yet to take medication for that, new updated recommendations may change that. As reported in Monday's issue of Circulation, the National Cholesterol Education Program is now calling for drug therapy for nearly all high-risk patients with LDL or bad cholesterol levels of 100 or higher.
Previously, medication was recommended for high risk patients with LDL levels of 130, but the NCEP says waving the red flag at 100 instead could save millions of lives.
"We have recent studies that have shown that individuals who have had a heart attack, or what we call unstable angina, unstable syndrome, that if you get very intensive cholesterol lowering, you have a significant reduction in the risk of heart attack or death, compared to only getting moderate cholesterol lowering. And so, we now know that those high risk individuals after a heart attack need more intensive treatment," says Dr. Steven Nissen, a cardiologist.
Patients are considered high risk if they've already had a heart attack or have heart disease and another condition like Diabetes or high blood pressure, or if they smoke. The guidelines were based on a number of studies that have shown that lowering LDL levels to 70 or 80 can dramatically reduce the risk of a heart attack.