Have you had your statins today? If you’re over 40, even with no history of cardiovascular disease, it could become part of your routine based on recommendations week from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
The Nov. 13 report suggests that someone with even a single risk factor for cardiovascular disease — high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure or smoking cigarettes — should consider taking statins, a class of lipid-lowing medications. (Lipitor and Crestor are among the more popular statins.) The guidelines move the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force closer to the major shift in 2013 by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association from prioritizing a patient’s low-density lipoproteins (the “bad” cholesterol) to a broader assessment of risks like weight and blood pressure, coupled with lifestyle choices like smoking.
Many physicians are reluctant to prescribe statins because of side effects that can include liver problems, muscle aches, memory loss and diabetes. But Dr. Paul Thompson, chief of cardiology and co-physician-in-chief of the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute, says such fears should not discourage anyone from taking statins.
“I have made a career on examining statin-associated adverse effects,” he told Reuters Health, “and have umpteen papers on the topic, but I am convinced they do not affect the majority of patients. I never miss my statin despite my career interest.”
Dr. Thompson, in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, cautioned that patients who take 80 percent of their statin dose have a 45 percent greater chance of dying than patients who take the prescribed dosage faithfully.
“Yet thousands of patients avoid these life-saving medications,” he wrote, “because of the presence of, or concern about, possible statin-associated adverse effects.”
The task force, commissioned by the federal government, recommended statins for anyone ages 40 to 75 with one or more risk factors that increases by 10 percent the risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years. The task force’s independent experts declined, however, to recommend that anyone 76 or older start taking statins because of potential risks. But they also said people in that age group alread taking statins need not stop taking them.
Even better than statins, say doctors, is proper lifestyle choices. Following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, limiting alcohol and not smoking is the best way anyone can avoid cardiovascular disease.
To learn more, register for a free educational seminar called “How Do Heart Attacks Happen?” Feb. 22 in Wethersfield by calling 1.855.HHC.HERE (1.855.442.4373).