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New heart health guidelines

U.S. - Doctors are calling for a lot more Americans to consider taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol.

The guidelines -- the first in a decade for preventing heart attacks and strokes -- come from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

Under the guidelines, one third of all adults should consider taking the drugs.

The new recommendations include a new formula for estimating a person's risk -- and it's a formula that includes many factors besides cholesterol, which is the main focus now.

The definition of high cholesterol isn't changing -- but the treatment goal is.

Instead of aiming for a specific number, using whatever drugs get a patient there, the advice stresses statins like Lipitor and Zocor, and it identifies four groups of people they help the most.          

Under the new advice, 33 million Americans 44% of men and 22% of women -- would meet the threshold to consider taking a statin.

Chief Cardiologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Dr. Charles Lowenstein said doctors have been waiting for these changes for almost ten years.

Statins and aspirin are hugely important drugs for cardiologists, hugely important drugs for patients. They greatly reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and death from heart disease, Dr. Lowenstein said. So if more patients go on statins well see two things. First of all, well probably help our patients, well decrease cardiovascular disease, but theres also a flip side to every medicine, well probably also see an increase in the number of people who get side effects.

Some of those side effects include muscle aches and pains and inflammation of the liver.

Even with more access, doctors warn that statin drugs alone won't eliminate the risks of heart disease.

Doctors stress a healthy diet low in saturated and trans fats and sodium.

They also suggest at least 40 minutes of exercise three to four times a week.

Read more about the new recommendations by clicking here.

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Washington Times