New U.S. guidelines on preventing heart attacks and strokes call for twice as many Americans to consider taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.
The guidelines, issued Tuesday by two leading medical organizations, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology, use a new formula to estimate a person's risk. It takes into account many factors besides cholesterol, which has been the main focus up until now.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. And high cholesterol leads to hardened arteries that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Millions of Americans take statin drugs, which reduce cholesterol dramatically.
Under the old guidelines, statin drugs were recommended for about 15 percent of U.S. adults; but, under the new formula, one-third of the population -- 33 million Americans -- are advised to take them.
The new advice identifies four groups of people for whom statins help the most -- those who already have heart disease, people over the age of 40 with Type 2 diabetes, people with an elevated LDL level, and those over 40 with a high risk of getting heart disease within 10 years.
These new guidelines still emphasize the importance of a healthy diet and exercise in avoiding heart disease and stroke.