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New cholesterol guidelines released

Published: Nov. 12, 2018 at 5:39 PM EST
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More than 800,000 deaths per year can be attributed to cardiovascular disease, including conditions that cause heart attacks and strokes.

As of Saturday, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have issued new recommendations for controlling high cholesterol levels -- one of the biggest heart disease risk indicators. These new guidelines recommend a personalized approach from doctors assessing a patient's risk, new drug treatment options for patients at higher risk, and a sharper focus on LDL target levels -- the amount of "bad" cholesterol present in a person's body.

Doctors are being urged to examine the risks of high cholesterol in all patients, rather than those in a specific age range. The old guidelines ignored patients younger than 40 and older than 75. They're also encouraged to discuss with patients a range of factors that may increase risks, like family history, ethnicity, other metabolic conditions, and chronic kidney disease.

LDL levels are once again in focus. People with LDL levels of 100 or lower have reduced rates of heart disease and stroke, whereas levels above 160 are considered very high and require specialized treatment.

Though feedback from the medical community about the new recommendations has been largely positive, there are criticisms being made. Coronary artery calcium scores are recommended to help determine the necessity of cholesterol-lowering treatments for patients when their need is unclear. The score shows plaque buildup in arteries, but it requires a CT scan, which can be costly.