Health Experts Release New Cholesterol Management Guidelines

Late last week, the world’s leading heart health experts released new cholesterol management guidelines that advise doctors should tailor treatments based on a more personalized approach to risk assessment for each patient.  In addition, these experts have added two new drug types to their list of recommendations for those at highest risk for developing a cholesterol-related disease.

The new recommendations come on the heels of criticisms over the present guidelines, which were issued back in 2013.  These new, at the time, guidelines made some significant changes to the way health-care providers approach determining patient heart attack risk as well as risk for cardiovascular disease.  The watershed document told doctors to stop focusing on lowering patient cholesterol numbers to hit certain targets. Instead, these experts now advise doctors should follow what has become a matrix of attempts for predicting future risks.

Experts say these latest guidelines will give clinicians a much better idea for figuring a treatment category that can best serve a patient’s need.  These categories depend on cholesterol scores as well as the results of other tests.

For example, the new guidelines will recommend “high-intensity” statin therapy for patients younger than 75 but have also been diagnosed with an atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. The goal for these patients is to reduce their “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins, LDL) by half.  The new guidelines also assess people between the ages of 40 and 75 who have diabetes should get “moderate-intensity” statin therapy regardless of their 10-year risk.

Constant reassessment of cholesterol guidelines continues to be an important strategy in the medical field because heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States.  The numbers indicate that roughly one-third of US adults have LDL levels that are higher than recommended. These high LDL levels contribute greatly to more fatty deposits in the arteries, a process which leads to an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and a handful of other cardiovascular problems.

Most importantly, the recommendations assert that the best strategy for improved heart health is to lower LDL through smart and healthy lifestyle choices. These choices include eating a nutritious diet and getting moderate exercise and obviously avoiding things like smoking and other poor health habits.

Unveiled this weekend at the American Heart Association’s 2018 Scientific Sessions (in Chicago), the 121-page document has been published in both the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and Circulation (the journal of the heart association).