Statins are medications that are used to help lower your cholesterol. Studies have shown that elevated cholesterol levels increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Recently, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology release new recommendations for prescribing cholesterol lowering statins like Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor to name a few. Not all cholesterol is bad, however. It is an essential fat that supports the body’s cells and the human body needs cholesterol to function. It is found in certain foods and is also made naturally by the body. Sometimes however people end up with too much cholesterol.
Until recently, patients who had a blood cholesterol level less than 200 were considered to be at a lower risk for coronary heart disease and stroke than a patient who had a cholesterol level above 240—regardless of their risk factors. A patient with a blood cholesterol level above 240 has twice the risk of coronary heart disease than a patient who has a level below 200.
“Today, instead of focusing on just the cholesterol number, the new guidelines focus primarily on an individual’s risk for heart attack and stroke. Even if your cholesterol level is higher than ideal but your risk for heart attack and stroke is low, we may focus more on diet and exercise,” said Westchester Medical Center Cardiologist Tanya Dutta. “However, if your risk is high, even if your cholesterol number is not significantly elevated, we may prescribe a statin based on the new guidelines, which not only look at risk factors but include a patient’s age and their actual risk for having a heart attack or stroke in the future—so it is not only about a number."
Today physicians agree that this may allow a huge segment of the population with relatively normal cholesterol levels, who may not have been a candidate for statins in the past—based on just their number, to benefit from these medications. “Of course, all of these recommendations should be coupled with talking to your physician, eating right, exercising, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight,” added Dr. Dutta. For more information on this and other important health topics visit www.westchestermedicalcenter.com .
About Westchester Medical Center Spanning every adult and pediatric m edical specialty Westchester Medical Center (WMC), the 895-bed regional medical system serving New York’s Hudson Valley region and beyond, encompassing a regional academic medical center, children’s hospital, community hospital, two inpatient behavioral health centers, homecare and numerous outpatient health and related services serves as a lifeline to the more than 3.5 million people in the Hudson Valley region and beyond. With a total workforce of 7,000 healthcare professionals including 1200 physicians, Westchester Medical Center is one of the region’s largest sources of employment and economic impact. From prevention to education and treatment, the physicians, health care staff and volunteers at Westchester Medical Center and our MidHudson Regional Hospital have a reputation as the region’s most advanced and innovative health care delivery system.