We have been talking about cholesterol levels and talking specific numbers and target goals for years. People have been asking about normal cholesterol levels, low cholesterol levels, high cholesterol levels, good cholesterol levels and bad cholesterol levels for years. However, the recent cholesterol guidelines have clearly stated that it does not matter what your cholesterol levels are, you need treatment with a specific type of cholesterol medications called statins if you fall into certain risk category for heart attacks and strokes.
The one group of patients they unequivocally and strongly recumbent starting cholesterol medication is the group of patients under 75 years of age who have had heart attacks or strokes in the past.
In the new guideline, the only cholesterol level they take into account for treatment recommendation is the LDL cholesterol level. LDL cholesterol is commonly known as the bad cholesterol and it has been known to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The new guidelines, however, suggest that the cholesterol medications in the class of drugs called statins decrease your heart attack and stroke risk regardless of your initial cholesterol LDL levels. They also suggest that the degree of protection is not necessarily determined by the amount of drop in your cholesterol levels. This is a significant departure from past recommendations when they stressed and recommended different target cholesterol levels for patients with different risks.
Not everyone is happy with all the provisions in the new cholesterol guidelines but I believe that this particular strong recommendation for patients with a history of heart attacks and strokes has four distinct advantages:
Help look at the bigger picture: It emphasizes the idea that cholesterol levels are only a small part of the overall risks for heart attacks and strokes. It aims to take away time spent in obsessing over cholesterol numbers and use that time to decrease overall risk by eating right, exercising, and choosing a healthy lifestyle.
- Helps decrease the anxiety and stress related to cholesterol levels: People won’t have a target to achieve, a standard to meet, a number to score and the disappointment associated with failure to reach the goal. As I talked in my previous blog post, people’s obsession with cholesterol numbers was actually contributing towards their risks for heart attacks and strokes.
- Puts all patients with heart attacks and stroke patients in the same category: Patients that were previously labelled as having low or normal cholesterol will also get the same protection offered by the statin class of cholesterol medications.
- Avoids unnecessary non-statin type cholesterol medication: Previously, patients with high LDL cholesterol and the doctors treating them used to be very frustrated when they could not get the LDL levels to the target number. They would add other cholesterol medications to try to supplement the cholesterol lowering effects of statins. Now, they do not have to chase those numbers. This will certainly reduce the unnecessary use of non-statin cholesterol medications.
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