CHOLESTEROL CARE: Statin drug guidelines updated - FOX 13 News

CHOLESTEROL CARE: Statin drug guidelines updated

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For anyone struggling with high cholesterol, the decision to go take medication for it can be tough -- but new guidelines are helping doctors and patients consider weigh the risks and benefits.

For years, "LDL" -- the bad cholesterol -- has been the main guideline for doctors prescribing statin medications that can prevent the buildup of lipids in a patient's blood which can lead to clogged arteries.

Floyd Haugh had bypass surgery 20 years ago. He's still taking medication to control his high blood pressure and cholesterol -- but now, Dr. Woubeshet Ayenew, a cardiologist at the Hennepin County Medical Center, says statin therapy should be matched to an individual's risk of heart attack or stroke regardless of their cholesterol number.

"We try to use what we call 'the lowest possible dose' to get the best effect out of it," Ayenew explained.

New guidelines recommend looking at other factors in combination with cholesterol -- including age and medical history.

"Diabetes is one," Ayenew told Fox 9 News. "High blood pressure is another."

Ayenew says it's a given that arteries will harden with age, which is why it's the strongest predictor of heart attack or stroke. Yet, just as he would recommend medication for someone with high cholesterol, Ayenew told Fox 9 News he'd also recommend it to anyone between the ages of 40-75 who has already suffered one of those medical crises -- as well as someone who is diabetic. Even so, he says it's no substitute for a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise.

"Drug or not, the lifestyle changes are always going to be the important things," he said.

MORE: Risk calculator

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