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American Heart Association

New guidelines changing the use of statins

Q: I'm confused about when a person should start drug therapy to lower cholesterol. It used to be based on a number. What's the latest?

For years, doctors prescribed drugs to lower cholesterol based largely on blood test results. For most people, an LDL ("bad cholesterol") level of 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood was enough to trigger concern. For people with coronary heart disease, the optimal LDL level was less than 70 mg/dL).

But recent guidelines on statin use proposed a major change to that strategy. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued the guidelines in 2013.

The new guidelines take away this...