The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) recently released a new set of guidelines about healthy cholesterol levels. The new guidelines also suggest ways to lower your cholesterol. One of the biggest changes in the guidelines is the way in which healthcare providers are supposed to prescribe statins, a type of medicine that helps lower cholesterol levels.
Statins are a type of medicine that you might take to lower your cholesterol level. Cholesterol, a type of fat that is found in a natural form in the human body, serves many purposes. Everyone needs cholesterol to live. Like so many other things in your body, healthy cholesterol levels is all about having balance. There are a few types of cholesterol in the body. The main forms of cholesterol are HDL, or “good cholesterol” and LDL, or “bad cholesterol.”
LDL cholesterol is bad because too much of it can stick to the inside walls of blood vessels, forming hard substances called plaques. These plaques cause the blood vessels to become narrow, which can limit blood ﬂow to vital organs like the heart and brain.
HDL cholesterol is good because it helps prevent these plaques from forming. Most of the choles- terol in the body is made in the liver. Statins work by preventing the liver from making cholesterol, mostly limiting the production of bad, LDL cholesterol.
With less cholesterol being made, the cells in the body work harder to get LDL out of the blood. Therefore, statins lower blood cholesterol levels by:
- Decreasing production of cholesterol
- Increasing the amount of cholesterol removed from the blood by the cells in your body
HOW ARE THE NEW GUIDELINES DIFFERENT?
The old cholesterol guidelines gave specific target levels for cholesterol in certain groups. For example, if you were in a high-risk group for heart disease, you were supposed to get your LDL level to 70 or less. If taking a statin did not get you to less than 70, your doctor would have given you another medicine to try to get you there.