Heart disease remains the number one killer for men and women, and now doctors have new guidelines to help lower their patient's risks.
The guidelines were released last week by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. One of the biggest, and most controversial, changes is that more patients would qualify for medication like statins.
"We always try to perceive who is at the highest risk and therefore who would we be more aggressive with, more aggressive being defined as medical management like aspirin statins, ect," said interventional cardiologist Dr Darrin Breaux.
There are also new formulas that doctors can use to determine a person's risk, using things like blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, even age, sex, and race. In fact, for the first time, the guidelines look more closely at high risk populations that have been previously overlooked.
"Traditionally we've looked more heavily at white men, for example. The new guidelines are more inclusive for African Americans and women so we can get a better idea of populations that were not looked at in more details," said Breaux.
If the formulas don't paint a clear picture of risk, doctors have other tools like calcium scoring which is a quick CT Scan that reveals the amount of calcium or plaque in your arteries. The results help point your doctor in the right direction for treatment.
Calcium scoring is not appropriate for every patient. It is recommended for anyone over the age of 35, with risk factors like high blood cholesterol, family history of heart disease, or smoking.
However, the new guidelines have sparked controversy. Some worry that the push for more medication takes the focus away from a healthy lifestyle. Breaux says that's not the case.
"We always want to emphasize to all populations to be healthy, healthy lifestyle, diet, exercise, things that put you at risk smoking, ect. That is applicable to all the population," said Breaux. "What we're trying to do is identify the population that is at risk, more risk for cardiovascular disease and would benefit from additional therapy."
For more information on the new guidelines, click here. Any questions about your health should be discussed with your physician.
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