The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force now recommends that many adults take a low to moderate dose of a statin to reduce their risk of a heart attack or stroke, even if they don’t have a history of cardiovascular disease.
Statins are drugs that reduce the production of cholesterol by the liver — lowering bad cholesterol and triglycerides and raising good cholesterol. The task force comprehensively reviewed the literature on clinical trials and observational studies involving statin use. It concluded that the benefits of using statins outweighed the harms in some patients with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Douglas Owen, MD, a Stanford professor of medicine and director of the Center for Health Policy, was a member of the task force when the guidelines were developed. He summarizes the new recommendations in a recent news story:
The task force recommends that clinicians offer statins to adults who are 40 to 75 years old and have at least one existing cardiovascular disease risk, such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol or smoking. They also must have a calculated risk of 10 percent or more that they will experience a heart attack or stroke in the next decade. The task force recommends that clinicians use the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association risk calculator to estimate cardiovascular risk because it provides gender- and race-specific estimates of heart disease and stroke.
Task force members hope these new recommendations will help clinicians better identify cardiovascular risk, so their patients can take steps to reduce their risk, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising and potentially taking a statin.