The pool of people who might need to take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs will expand considerably under new guidelines announced by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
The task force, a panel of independent health experts authorized by Congress, called for all people ages 40 to 75 to be screened to see if they need statins to help prevent cardiovascular disease. The panel regularly reviews the benefits and harms of specific preventive-care treatments and makes recommendations based on the most recent research.
The new guidelines, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, generally support the 2013 recommendations by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology, which shifted away from focusing only on cholesterol numbers and broadened the view to include risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes.
“People with no signs, symptoms or history of cardiovascular disease can still be at risk for having a heart attack or stroke,” task force chair Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, told the Washington Post.
The task force recommends the use of low- to moderate-dose statins in adults without a history of heart disease and who don’t have current signs of problems but who have one or more risk factors, including high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure or smoking, and a calculated 10 percent risk of a heart attack in the next 10 years.
(To calculate your heart risk, use this online calculator from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.)
For those with a 7.5 to 10 percent risk of cardiovascular disease within 10 years, the benefits of taking a statin would be smaller and should be a patient’s “individual decision with their doctor,” the panel said.