Until recently, health related cholesterol guidelines had remained stagnant, but recent trends in health care has prompted new studies and a sweeping reassessment of our understanding of cholesterol, how it impacts heart disease, and how it should be treated.
In the past few months, this reassessment has spurred investigation into different remedies and prevention methods for cardiovascular disease, introducing changes that will affect Cincinnati seniors.
What New Methods Are Being Introduced to Treat Heart Disease?
There haven’t exactly been any new breakthroughs for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, but medical science has been exploring new applications for old remedies and recent changes to guidelines for the medication known colloquially as statin will aim to take on heart disease at the root of its cause.
Most issues related to heart disease start with a process called atherosclerosis, which is a condition that develops as plaque builds up along the walls of the arteries.
As plaque builds up, your arteries begin to narrow, making it increasingly difficult for blood to flow as it should. In some cases, plaque builds up so significantly that blockages form, depriving the brain or heart of blood, creating a heart attack or stroke.
What Are Statins, and How Do They Work?
The body produces two different kinds of cholesterol– LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL has been singled out as the “bad” form of cholesterol and a primary culprit for heart disease.
For seniors with a family history of heart disease or other risk factors, it’s likely that LDL is more easily able to penetrate artery walls where it is able to undergo a chemical process that oxidizes and hardens it, turning it in to plaque.
Statins are a group of drugs used to reduce levels of fats– in many cases, cholesterol– in the blood. There are many commonly prescribed statins, all of which all serve to decrease the production of cholesterol:
- Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- Simvastatin (Zocor)
- Pravastatin (Pravachol)
They work to prevent the occurrence of a catastrophic event like stroke or heart attack by blocking the production of the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, a substance that your body needs to make cholesterol. Furthermore, this class of medications also works to regulate cholesterol already in your system, helping your body breakdown and reabsorb cholesterol that has built up in your arteries.
Statins, in turn, are meant to stop the creation of this bad cholesterol at the molecular level, therefore decreasing the chance of major heart problems.
There Are New Guidelines That Will Affect You and Your Loved Ones.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recently published new guidelines for the treatment of blood cholesterol that made recommendations for who should be prescribed statins now. The short answer is just about every senior.
The AHA is now recommending that a staggering 56 million people, more than double the previous number, should be taking statin. Statin, studies have shown, can be a beneficial preventative measure for nearly every man over the age of 60, and over half of women the same age— even those with no known risk for heart disease.
It’s estimated that over the course of 10 years, this change in the prescription and use of statin use could lead to the prevention of almost a half-million heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular deaths. And though the increased cost of creating and maintaining these higher numbers is significant, the cost of the medication would be nothing compared to the cost of treatment for heart attacks and strokes.
If you have a family history of heart disease, or want to take extra precautions in protecting yourself from heart attack and stroke, talk with your health care professional about whether you would benefit from a statin regimen.