Health Check: Controversy over New American Heart Association guidelines

Dr. Barbara Roberts, anoted cardiologist, is alarmed about new American Heart Association guidelineswhich outline who should be taking cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins.

"My problem with theseguidelines is that they represent a huge potential expansion in the number ofhealthy people taking statins," she said.

According to theguidelines, statins are now being recommended for folks who have a 10-year riskof developing heart disease.

Roberts is the author of "TheTruth About Statins", a book that outlines the risks and alternatives tocholesterol lowering drugs. She said there are side effects.

"About 10 percent ofpeople taking statins will have serious muscle pain and some of them will haveserious muscle damage," Roberts said. "They also cause cognitive dysfunction."

Other side effects,according to the FDA, include liver damage in rare cases and an increased riskof developing Type 2 diabetes.

"Really healthy individualsin ideal health don't need to take statins, but in fact there aren't very manyof those," said Dr. Rose Marie Robertson, chief science officer with theAmerican Heart Association.

Not according to the HeartAssociation's new online risk calculator.

Robertson said thecalculator is all scientifically evidence based, and will catch folks at highrisk before they display symptoms.

But two Harvard Universityprofessors found serious flaws that could result in overestimating a person'srisk for heart disease by as much as 150 percent.

"We're eager to look atthe real data," Robertson said.

And some cardiologists,like Roberts, are interested in looking at all of the data collected by theHeart Association extensively.

"The guidelines would potentiallyadd over 13.5 million healthy people to the number already taking statins," Robertssaid.

The AHA points out the newguidelines emphasize the importance of adopting a heart healthy lifestyle whichincludes quitting smoking, eating healthier and exercise.