What the New Heart-Health Guidelines Mean for You


Until recently, medical professionals were advised to reduce a patient’s risk of heart attacks and strokes by keeping their LDL cholesterol levels low. Moderate-risk patients were instructed to keep these levels under 100 while higher risk patients were encouraged to stay below 70. A major change to these guidelines has recently been approved, which will increase the effectiveness of treatment methods and hopefully decrease the number of stroke and heart attack victims.

A New Objective

There is no guaranteed method or technique that doctors can use to determine if or when a person will suffer from a stroke or heart attack. Even the most knowledgeable and experienced physicians and cardiologists in the country can only consider applicable risk factors to calculate these odds. Based on the approved guideline revisions, the new target objective will be to focus primarily on offering statin treatments to high-risk patients in four categories rather than following the previous LDL guidelines. The four risk categories include patients who have already suffered a heart attack or stroke; patients with LDL levels above 190; people who have diabetes; and anyone between 40 and 79 who has a high risk of having a heart attack over the next 10 years, based on a new risk score.

Is LDL Cholesterol Still Bad?

Many people have speculated that the adjusted guideline means that LDL cholesterol levels are no longer as bad as was once thought, especially because they will no longer be the primary factor considered when it comes to receiving statin treatments. Interviews with the preventive medicine team at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine confirm that lowering these particular levels will remain a critical concern. The new guidelines will only shift their main focus toward analyzing how effective statin treatments are at reducing risks instead of how a person’s LDL levels are affected.

What about Existing Prescriptions?

These new guidelines won’t necessarily mean that all patients with existing prescriptions for cholesterol medications will have to stop taking them or even change their dosages. Your doctor will be able to re-evaluate your health condition and overall risk factors in order to determine whether or not adjusting your treatment therapies would be more effective. Keep in mind that the way these risks are calculated has been changed, so you should consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to receive an updated report on your condition.

Effective Tests and Examinations

Although these new guidelines change the way a person’s risk is calculated when it comes to the type of treatment they will receive, nothing will change about the major testing and scans conducted to examine the condition of a person’s internal organs, including their heart and lungs. There is a wide range of medical equipment which is still being used to serve this purpose, including X-ray machines. A single chest X-ray, for example, can identify major heart complications, such as an enlarged heart or signs of congestive heart failure. This technology will work alongside the new guidelines to better assess risk, identify problem areas, and potentially save more lives.

Reducing Risk with Lifestyle Changes

Studies have confirmed that it is not necessary to wait for an official diagnosis from a doctor before making lifestyle changes to lower your risk of having a stroke or heart attack. Breaking life-threatening habits such as excessive drinking and smoking should be the very first changes made, if applicable. Even if you don’t smoke or drink excessively, you can also lower the risk of suffering from a stroke or heart attack by maintaining a well-balanced, healthy diet in addition to exercising regularly. Whether the new guidelines qualify you for statin therapy treatment or not, you will still be able to benefit greatly by making and maintaining these lifestyle changes.

How Are You Affected?

To fully understand how these revised guidelines directly affect you, the most qualified person to answer your questions is your doctor. He or she has already been trained thoroughly on these guidelines, and the new procedures that need to be followed. In addition to making significant lifestyle changes to reduce your risk, you should trust the knowledge and expertise of your doctor.

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