Health Check: New cholesterol management guidelines

Health Check: New cholesterol management guidelines. (WJAR)

There are new cholesterol management guidelines aimed at getting patients more involved.

The guidelines -- the first in five years -- emphasize the importance of healthy living, prevention, as well as medication, when needed.

"I had high cholesterol, mostly high LDL,” said Frank Gianpietro, who has been under the care of Dr. Karen Aspry, a cardiologist with Lifespan.

LDL is the bad cholesterol.

"His cholesterol was about two-fold higher than we like for someone who's had bypass surgery," said Aspry.

On top of that, Gianpietro had an intolerance to cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins.

But, as Aspry will tell you, three out of four people who do can be helped through lifestyle changes and proper dosing of the medication.

"We raised up his statins slowly until he was able to get on a dose that he could tolerate,” said Asprey.

Now, his numbers have significantly improved.

For patients like Gianpietro, who have heart disease, getting the bad cholesterol down is crucial.

"What's new about these guidelines is that individuals like Frank who have heart disease, who have lots of these coronary events, and their cholesterols are above a certain threshold, which is the bad cholesterol being 70 -- if it's above that, then you want to be adding on other medications to the statin,” said Asprey.

For some, non-statins may be used alone or lifestyle changes may be enough.

"Most heart attacks are not coming from people with heart disease in the population. They're coming out of the blue in people who never knew they had heart disease," said Asprey.

That’s why it's important to look at overall numbers and plug them in to a risk calculator.

"The risk calculation takes in to account your age, your gender, not just your cholesterol, but your blood pressure, whether you have diabetes, whether you smoke, and puts that all in to an equation and gives you your risk over that period of time,” said Asprey.

There are a few take-aways. You really need to know all your numbers and have a discussion with your doctor about risk.

Click here to view the guidelines and a risk calculator.

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