Don't Rush to Get a Statin: Top Heart Doctor

Wednesday, 13 Nov 2013 12:11 PM

By Charlotte Libov

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Will there be a statin stampede?
 
That’s what health authorities are asking in the wake of groundbreaking new cholesterol guidelines that some predict will result in twice as many Americans taking the already-popular statin medications.
 
However, one of the nation’s top cardiologists says that those worried about heart health should be cautious before jumping on the statin bandwagon. “I’m not against statins.They are lifesavers for many of my patients. But these broad guidelines play into the myth that Americans can solve their health problems by popping a pill,” says Chauncey Crandall, M.D., director of preventative medicine and clinical cardiology at the Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic.

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“These drugs don't remedy the health problems that our lifestyle has brought us.”
 
Dr. Crandall recommends a wait-and-see approach to the new guidelines. “We’ve made great progress over the past 25 years,” he said. “I don’t think we should abandon a successful strategy until we have time to evaluate how the new one is working.”
 
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology announced the new joint guidelines on Tuesday. They are the first major change in a decade, and they mark a dramatic shift in the way statin drugs are prescribed. Key changes include the jettisoning of familiar cholesterol number goals and a broadening of the definition of who should take statins.
 
Under the old guidelines, doctors were urged to bring patients down to cholesterol target numbers, including a total cholesterol count of less than 200, with low-density LDL cholesterol (the so-called “bad” cholesterol) under 100. People with heart disease, were advised to keep their total cholesterol level under 150 and their LDL cholesterol below 70.
 
Dr. Crandall, author of the number one Amazon best-seller The Simple Heart Cure: The 90-day Program to Stop and Reverse Heart Disease, is skeptical of reducing the importance of hitting cholesterol targets. “We shouldn’t be backing off treating these individuals to goal,” he said. “These targets work well, people are accustomed to them, and changing them now will cause confusion.”

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Under the new guidelines, cholesterol numbers are just part of a larger set of factors that doctors will use to determine whether a person should take a statin. The new risk calculator also considers blood pressure, age, risk for diabetes, stroke, and other factors. Most experts agree that they set a lower threshold for taking statins, which include Lipitor, Zocor, and Crestor. As a result, some 70 million Americans could end up on the medications. About 32 million take statins now.
 
Dr. Crandall, author of the Heart Health Report newsletter, says he doesn’t plan to change the way he prescribes statins, at least in the near future.

“We are going the same way we have been for a year or two until the dust settles over the new guidelines,” he told Newsmax Health. “We’re staying true to what we’ve been doing because we have a system that we know works.”
 
The new guidelines downplay the importance of lifestyle changes, which for many people can accomplish the same goals as the powerful statin drugs without potential side effects that include increased diabetes risk, muscle disorders, and mental confusion, he said.
 
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“Doctors tend to put the emphasis on statins, but we also know that a plant-based diet also has a tremendous impact on preventing and reversing heart disease,” said Dr. Crandall.
 

Doctor Finds Cure for Heart Disease

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