High cholesterol effects a multitude of Americans, all of different ages, races, genders, and backgrounds, and has been linked to a variety of other health issues, including obesity and heart problems. As such, guideline changes concerning cholesterol effect many people, and since the last change occurred in 2004, this one is causing more than a few waves of confusion and questions. What, exactly, do the guidelines change, and what should Americans expect in the years to come?
As the above link to a New York Times article explains, the new guidelines set in place by the American Heart Association and the american College of Cardiology aren't scary or tough to understand. At their basic level, the new guidelines actually make some changes for the better; instead of focusing solely on cholesterol levels, doctors are now encouraged to examine the risk associated with individual patient's cholesterol when it comes to heart disease and stroke. These factors are what now need to be the focus when drug treatments are being considered for patients who are having trouble controlling their cholesterol through lifestyle changes. Basically, there is less focus on numbers and more focus on individual lifestyles and cholesterol effects.
The other big change associated with these guideline changes have to do with drugs used to control cholesterol. The guidelines emphasize the importance of using drugs that lower the risks associated with high cholesterol, rather than drugs that make numbers go down and give better-looking scores in the doctor's office. The guidelines particularly encourage the use of statins, which are proven to lower risks, even if a patient does not have high cholesterol levels. This poses a threat to some of the bigger name drugs on the market today, which are not nearly effective, at least not in the same ways. This could spell out big trouble for up-and-coming drugs aiming to market themselves to patients with high cholesterol levels. On the flip side, statin sales are expected to potentially double.
Ultimately, the guideline changes are a positive thing, encouraging individual cases and conversations between doctor and patient, rather than score chasing and medication that lowers numbers rather than risk. Hopefully, these new guidelines will improve health nation-wide, so that we can work towards a healthier America in the future.[Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.]