The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association just released new cholesterol guidelines. The guideline changes reflects the shifts of goals.
- Old goal: Lower your LDL levels to less than 100 mg/dL.
- New goal: Lower your risk of heart disease.
And this goal change makes sense. Manipulating our LDL numbers isn’t as important or helpful as reducing our actual risk of heart disease.
These guidelines also addressed the issue of what medications should be recommended then. There are lots of medications on the market that lower LDL levels, have not been proven to lower heart disease risk. These studies led the authors of the guidelines to make a distinction between proven and unproven medications. The guidelines also explicitly tell doctors to only use statins, as they are only medication proven to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
So who should be taking statins? Statin use is recommended if you have one of the following:
- Heart disease
- Diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2)
- LDL levels greater than 190 mg/dL
- 10-year risk of a heart attack greater than 7.5% (Use risk calculator here)
If you do not have any of the four risk factors above, then you should consider dietary and lifestyle changes to lower your risk of heart disease, such as…
- Physical activity — get up, get moving.
- Stop smoking.
- Eat a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
- Reduce your saturated fat and sodium intake.