New Guidelines Issued for Cholesterol Levels

Aggressive Drug Therapy Suggested for Those at Highest Risk

The government has set new guidelines for cholesterol levels, lowering the threshold for getting treatment.

As NPR's Joanne Silberner reports, the idea is to save lives by using drugs more aggressively to lower patients' LDL cholesterol levels. Recent studies have shown that a drastic reduction of LDL can substantially reduce the risk of heart attacks and other heart disease. A look at the new recommendations, from the National Cholesterol Education Program:

Highest Risk Patients: The update suggests a new option to use drug therapy to lower LDL levels to below 70 mg/dL. Highest risk patients are those who have established heart disease along with other conditions, such as diabetes, smoking or high blood pressure.

High Risk: Drug therapy is now suggested for some to reduce LDL levels to 100 mg/dL.

Moderately High Risk: The goal remains an LDL under 130 mg/dL, but the update provides a therapeutic drug option to set a lower LDL goal of 100 mg/dL.

Lower/Moderate Risk: No changes were recommended for those with a lower or moderate risk of heart disease.

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