U.S. Task Force Backs Statins for These People
Primary focus is on people with 10 percent or greater threat of heart attack or stroke within 10 years
By Dennis Thompson
MONDAY, Dec. 21, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs should be used to prevent a first heart attack or stroke in certain at-risk patients, according to a draft recommendation released Monday by the nation's leading experts in preventive medicine.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said statins can provide maximum preventive benefits for adults 40 to 75 years old who have an existing risk factor for heart disease and at least a 10 percent or greater risk of a heart attack or stroke sometime within the next 10 years.
The independent panel added that people with a 10-year risk of heart attack and stroke between 7.5 percent and 10 percent might also benefit from statins, and should discuss the matter with their doctor.
"Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death, and people with no signs or symptoms or past history of cardiovascular disease can still be at risk," said task force member Dr. Douglas Owens, a professor of medicine at Stanford University. "Our review indicates that some of these people can take a statin to prevent heart attacks and strokes."
This is the first time that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has addressed statins as a means of heading off heart attacks or strokes, Owens said. Up to now, the task force has mainly focused on the best screening methods for detecting heart disease.
"Our sense was the really pressing question now is about who should be taking a statin to help control their cholesterol levels," Owens said.
Cholesterol can contribute to a person's risk of heart attack and stroke. The waxy substance can build up along the inner walls of the arteries that feed blood to the heart and the brain. This can force the heart to pump harder and increase the chances that a blood clot will seal off the vessel and cause a heart attack or stroke, according to the American Heart Association.
Statins interfere with the production of cholesterol by the liver, and thus help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and raise "good" HDL cholesterol levels in the bloodstream, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.