This past week, the American Heart Association updated their cholesterol guidelines, and the appropriate use of statins to lower cholesterol. These guidelines are a shift from prior approaches to lowering cholesterol, and the new guidelines are based more on individual risk factors for heart disease, rather than just the absolute cholesterol number. Based on large volumes of research, the conclusion is that having particular risk factors, such as diabetes, significantly increases your risk of heart attack and death. In this case, aggressive management, along with the use of statins, has a clear survival benefit.

Departing from past guidelines, someone with elevated cholesterol, but no risk factors, may not benefit from statin use.

It will take time for all physicians to rethink the cholesterol management question. For now, have a discussion with your physician.

On Your Health First, we will continue to update you with expert opinion on this most important topic.