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New Guidelines Could Put Many More People On Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

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64–year–old Joyce Enright has been taking cholesterol-lowering drugs for 7 years.

"I just couldn't get it under control myself, it was time."

Doctors used to rely on a specific cholesterol level to determine which patients needed the drugs known as statins.

Now new guidelines from the American Heart Association and The American College of Cardiology are recommending statins for four high–risk groups.

The groups include: Patients with cardiovascular disease, Those with a bad cholesterol 190 or higher, patients between 40 and 75 with Type 2 diabetes and patients between 40 and 75 with a ten year elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Neil Stone at Northwestern Memorial Hospital says, "We're talking about intensive lifestyle, the proper statin if the qualify and then a discussion."

But some cardiologists worry more people will be on statins who may not need them.

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum at Lenox Hill Hospital says, "It can cause muscle pain, it can cause joint pain, it could cause liver problems, elevation of liver enzymes. It could cause memory loss."

The guidelines also emphasize a heart healthy lifestyle. In Enright's case diet and exercise were not enough, plus she had a family history.

"I'm healthier now. I have a healthier lifestyle," says Joyce. Doctors say guidelines help, but stress each patient needs to be evaluated individually.

The new guidelines include recommendations for prescribing statins, saying higher doses may be best for some patients.