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New Guidelines Could Put More People On Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- New guidelines out today could put many more people on cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Doctors say it's critical to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Joyce Enright, 64, has been taking cholesterol-lowering drugs for seven years.

"I just couldn't get it under control myself; it was time," said Enright.

Doctors used to rely on a specific cholesterol level to determine which patients needed the drugs known as statins. Now, new guidelines from the American Heart Association and The American College of Cardiology are recommending statins for four high-risk groups.

The groups include: patients with cardiovascular disease, those with bad cholesterol 190 or higher, patients between 40 and 75 with Type 2 Diabetes, and patients between 40 and 75 with a 10-year elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.

"We're talking about intensive lifestyle, the proper statin if the qualify and then a discussion," she elaborates.

But some cardiologists worry more people will be on statins who may not need them.

"It can cause muscle pain, it can cause joint pain, it could cause liver problems, elevation of liver enzymes," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist. "It could cause memory loss."

The guidelines also emphasize a heart healthy lifestyle.

In Enright's case, diet and exercise were not enough, plus she had a family history.

"I'm healthier now," she says.

Doctors say guidelines help, but stress each patient needs to be evaluated individually.

The new guidelines include recommendations for prescribing statins, saying higher doses may be best for some patients.

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