Dec 03 2013

The Science of Health: What’s Wrong With the AHA’s New Recommendations on Heart Disease Risk?

Heart disease is the leading cause of deaths among Americans, and for years doctors have focused on lowering blood levels of LDL cholesterol as the main approach to reducing heart disease risk. But the American Heart Association, based on a multi-year review of existing medical research, is now recommending that doctors take a more holistic approach by examining various markers in their patients such as existing heart disease, diabetes or high cholesterol; and then, using patients’ age, weight, smoking habits, and blood pressure, calculate their risk for future heart disease using an online Cardiovascular risk calculator.

The AHA recommends that all patients who have the aforementioned health conditions or have a calculated risk of 7.5% or higher should automatically be prescribed cholesterol-reducing drugs like Lipitor, called “statins”. It is estimated that, as a result of these new guidelines, tens of millions more Americans could be prescribed statins.

But statins are already among the most widely prescribed drugs today. And, they are associated with serious side effects: the government’s Food and Drug Administration earlier this year released a warning for statin users saying they “may have an increased risk of raised blood sugar levels and the development of Type 2 diabetes.” Even more confusing, the New York Times reported that study by leading cardiologists of the AHA’s online risk calculator found that it “over predicted risk by 75 to 150 percent.”

GUEST: Stephen Sinatra, cardiologist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, and co-author of The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won’t Prevent Heart Disease and the Statin-Free Plan that Will

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