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New Guidelines Say Millions More Should Be Treated for High Cholesterol

The government came out today with new and aggressive guidelines for treating millions of Americans at risk for heart disease.

For starters, these recommendations would triple the number of Americans taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. Correspondent Byron Pitts has a cholesterol check for you.

Pauline Katz is in her late 40s and has never had a heart attack and no history of heart disease, but doctors say she is still a prime candidate for an attack or stroke because her cholesterol levels are dangerously high. Medication now keeps that under control.

"As I'm getting older, I'm thinking about my arteries hardening from the cholesterol. And from what medicine knows I'll have less chance of that," says Katz.

And it's the Pauline Katz's of the world doctors now hope to reach with new guidelines announced today.

"We have identified a large number of people who we really didn't recognize before who are likely to get a heart attack over the next few years," says Dr. Scott Grundy.

And not just the middle-aged or the elderly, but people in their 20's--anyone with high levels of LDL: bad cholesterol.

For years drug manufacturers have targeted these groups with the latest medications. It's estimated that some 13 million people take prescribed cholesterol drugs, and that number could jump to 36 million as a result of these new guidelines.

"Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer in this country, and most of the deaths actually come from people who never had a symptom of cardiac disease, but they were at high risk. So let's attack these people aggressively," says Dr. Valentin Fuster of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

The new guidelines for people at high risk of heart disease include those with diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity--especially fat around the belt buckle.

Along with the new guidelines came old and familiar recommendations for healthier living: a better diet, more exercise, and, if need be, prescription drugs.

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