New Science On Old Methods For Cholesterol Reduction

Download Audio

A lot more people should be on statins to lower cholesterol, according to new studies. We’ll look at the science and risks. Plus: the broad successes in a Colorado effort to decrease unplanned pregnancies.

This Nov. 15, 2005 file photo shows 40 milligram tablets of Lipitor, one kind of statin used for lowering blood cholesterol, in Glen Rock, N.J.  (AP)
This Nov. 15, 2005 file photo shows 40 milligram tablets of Lipitor, one kind of statin used for lowering blood cholesterol, in Glen Rock, N.J. (AP)

Despite all the years of talk about exercise and Mediterranean diets, heart disease is still the number one killer of Americans. This week, new research is out supporting the push to get more Americans on statins. Lipitor, Zocor, the generics. A lot more Americans. The latest guidelines would put nearly half of Americans age 40 to 75 on a daily dose of statins. To bring down cholesterol. The new research says it’s cost-effective. We know who needs it to avoid or control cardiovascular disease. Critics still say hold on! This hour On Point: statins, cholesterol, American heart disease, and you.
-- Tom Ashbrook


Melissa Healy, health and medicine reporter for the Los Angeles Times. (@latmelissahealy)

Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, where he is also the chair of the department of preventive medicine and director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
Dr. David Newman, director of clinical research at the the School of Medicine at the Mt. Sinai Hospital, where is also a professor of emergency medicine. Writes the Huffington Post's Medical Blog. Author of "Hippocrates' Shadow."

From Tom’s Reading List

JAMA: Guideline-Based Statin Eligibility, Coronary Artery Calcification, and Cardiovascular Events -- "Concerns about a more comprehensive approach to preventive therapy have been raised. A recent investigation based on extrapolation of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey cohort revealed that the new ACC/AHA guidelines would result in 12.8 million more adults being eligible for statin treatment compared with the ATP III guidelines. The proposition is that the new guidelines more accurately identify those who will experience cardiovascular events, that this constitutes an improvement over previous guidelines, and that the potential risks of providing statin therapy to more people are outweighed by these benefits."

NBC News: More People Should Get Statins, Report Says — "Experts estimate that another 8 million to 13 million Americans would get statins if everyone used the new criteria — with just under half of all adults aged 40 to 75 eligible. Statins, which include Lipitor, Mevacor, Crestor and Zocor, are extremely popular. They're prescribed to about 15 percent of U.S. adults, at a cost ranging from about $4 a month for the cheapest generic version to $600 for a pricey name-brand."

TIME: New Advice on Statins Is Leading to Less Heart Disease — "Rather than setting threshold levels of target cholesterol levels that were considered normal or high, for example, the new guidelines instead assessed a person’s overall risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other heart problem over the next 10 years. If these factors—which included cholesterol, family history of heart disease, age and other factors—contributed to a risk of 7.5% or higher, then the person would be eligible for taking the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins, which not only bring potentially troublesome fat levels in the blood down but also reduce inflammation, which can contribute to atherosclerosis and set the stage for a heart attack."

Check Out The Heart Risk Calculator Developed By The American College of Cardiology

Surprises In Colorado Birth Control Effort

Sabrina Tavernise, science correspondent for the New York Times. (@stavernise)

New York Times: Colorado's Effort Against Teenage Pregnancies Is A Startling Success -- "Over the past six years, Colorado has conducted one of the largest experiments with long-acting birth control. If teenagers and poor women were offered free intrauterine devices and implants that prevent pregnancy for years, state officials asked, would those women choose them? They did in a big way, and the results were startling. The birthrate among teenagers across the state plunged by 40 percent from 2009 to 2013, while their rate of abortions fell by 42 percent, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment."

This program aired on July 16, 2015.


More from On Point

Listen Live