New guidelines say taking statins earlier may prevent heart attacks, but not all agree

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SARASOTA, Fla. - Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor. If you have high cholesterol chances are you've heard of these and others. And now, in an effort aimed at preventing a first heart attack or stroke in millions of Americans there are new guidelines. But some say the guidelines rely on old data.

So what does this mean for you?

"This calculator takes into consideration your age, your sex whether you're a smoker what your blood pressure is et cetera.  It pumps out a number, and if that number is greater than or equal to seven and a half percent the guidelines say, we want you to have high intensity therapy," says Chippy Nalluri, M.D. of Heart Specialists of Sarasota.

Controversy surrounding new guidelines in preventative treatment of heart attacks and stroke include a new global risk calculator.

"Previously we looked at something called the Framingham risk score and depending on your other risks and cholesterol level, we decided if you would benefit from cholesterol lowering medication." said Dr. Nalluri.

And the new guidelines have medical experts questioning the calculators efficacy in scoring your risk.

Dr. Nalluri explains, "An individual just being sixty-five years of age, never having heart disease with this new calculator, suddenly calculates a high risk, and now we are opening up the seemingly healthy individuals to now being mandated to take cholesterol lowering medications, specifically a Statin."

The new guidelines are aimed at prevention, but taking statins like any other medication is not without risk, said Suncoast pharmacist, David Woodford. "One danger is that they wont have enough oil on their skin, or on their nerve coatings, and they could have pains because of that, muscle pains. It can also affect your ability to think and remember."

Woodford said there are definite benefits to those needing the medications, but they should also be aware of more serious possible extreme side effects. "Muscle destruction can happen, the contents of the muscle cells spilling into the blood all at once can really damage the kidneys," said Woodford.

The new global risk calculator guidelines on taking statins relied on older data. But the new risk calculator has since been tested using more current data.

Researchers find on average, results are between 75 and 150-percent and that's a substantial overestimation.

Both Dr.Nalluri and Woodford said that patients need to have an open dialogue with their physician, so that they can understand the new guidelines and make the best decisions.

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