Heart disease has taken the life of nearly every relative I’ve known since birth. And do you know what experts claim is the major risk factor that led to their heart attacks and strokes? Yup, it was high cholesterol. If you’re like my relatives and have ever suffered a stroke, heart attack, have heart disease, or like me it’s a prevalent part of your family history—you need to read this.
After a decade, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology finally issued new guidelines for preventing heart attacks and strokes. But what exactly does this mean for you or your loved one?
For one thing, it now suggests that double the amount of Americans should take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.
In the past, doctors gauged your *low-density lipoprotein (LDL) aka “bad” cholesterol levels as a sign that you were at risk for heart disease. Well not anymore. Regardless of cholesterol numbers, their recommendation (which includes a new formula) shifts the overall goal and focus of treatment.
Here’s what you need to know about the new guidelines for treatment:
1. The guidelines are now personalized by gender and ethnicity and include age, blood pressure, smoking habits, diabetes, cholesterol levels (even if you’re not at risk for heart disease), and family history.
2. The focus has shifted from evaluating and treating based primarily on high LDL levels. The aim now: lower a person’s overall risk for heart disease. Period.
3. Evaluations are broader—it includes all persons whether or not they have heart disease, those with high cholesterol levels, persons with Type 2 diabetes between ages 40 and 75, and those who score high on a new formula and are at risk of heart disease (with a certain timeframe). Hence, that means approximately one-third of Americans are now eligible for statins drugs.
4. Diet and exercise still matter. A minimum of 40 minutes of moderate exercise, three times a week and dietary changes such as more fruits, vegetables and grains (and less fatty, oily, sweet and salty foods) are suggested.
5. Specific tests and different assessment tools will be used to evaluate risk factors, and it’s recommended that doctors implement individualized behavior modification strategies (for diet and exercise) and regularly monitor patients.
Officials say medications are inexpensive and experts predict this approach will reduce the need for stents and angioplasty surgery, thus saving on medical costs.
Do you suffer with heart disease? How do you think this will affect your future medical care? Do you agree this approach is more preventative care rather than the maintenance programs of the past?
*(High-density lipoprotein or HDL is the good cholesterol that transports LDL out of the blood, thus preventing plaque buildup in the arteries.)