Statins are a family of medications that lower cholesterol. Even more important, they lower the chances of having a heart attack or stroke. Statins include atorvastatin (generic, Lipitor), fluvastatin (generic, Lescol), lovastatin (generic, Mevacor), pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin (generic, Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor), and simvastatin (generic, Zocor). The new guidelines recommend a statin for:
-anyone who has cardiovascular disease, including angina (chest pain with exercise or stress), a previous heart attack or stroke, or other related conditions
-anyone with a very high level of harmful LDL cholesterol (generally an LDL above greater than 190 milligrams per deciliter of blood [mg/dL])
-anyone with diabetes between the ages of 40 and 75 years
-anyone with a greater than 7.5% chance of having a heart attack or stroke or developing other form of cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years.
How is this different from the previous guidelines? They recommended specific cholesterol targets for treatment. For example, people with heart disease were urged to get their LDL cholesterol down to 70 mg/dL. The new guidelines essentially remove the targets and recommend basing treatment decisions on a person’s heart risk profile.
In other words, anyone at high enough risk who stands to benefit from a statin should be taking one. It doesn’t matter so much what his or her actual cholesterol level is to begin with. And there’s no proof that an LDL cholesterol of 70 mg/dL is better than 80 or 90 mg/dL. What’s important is taking the right dose based on heart attack and stroke risk.