Health Check: Controversy over New American Heart Association gu - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

Health Check: Controversy over New American Heart Association guidelines

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Dr. Barbara Roberts, a noted cardiologist, is alarmed about new American Heart Association guidelines which outline who should be taking cholesterol lowering drugs known as statins.

"My problem with these guidelines is that they represent a huge potential expansion in the number of healthy people taking statins," she said.

According to the guidelines, statins are now being recommended for folks who have a 10-year risk of developing heart disease.

Roberts is the author of "The Truth About Statins", a book that outlines the risks and alternatives to cholesterol lowering drugs. She said there are side effects.

"About 10 percent of people taking statins will have serious muscle pain and some of them will have serious muscle damage," Roberts said. "They also cause cognitive dysfunction."

Other side effects, according to the FDA, include liver damage in rare cases and an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

"Really healthy individuals in ideal health don't need to take statins, but in fact there aren't very many of those," said Dr. Rose Marie Robertson, chief science officer with the American Heart Association.

Not according to the Heart Association's new online risk calculator.

Robertson said the calculator is all scientifically evidence based, and will catch folks at high risk before they display symptoms.

But two Harvard University professors found serious flaws that could result in overestimating a person's risk for heart disease by as much as 150 percent.

"We're eager to look at the real data," Robertson said.

And some cardiologists, like Roberts, are interested in looking at all of the data collected by the Heart Association extensively.

"The guidelines would potentially add over 13.5 million healthy people to the number already taking statins," Roberts said.

The AHA points out the new guidelines emphasize the importance of adopting a heart healthy lifestyle which includes quitting smoking, eating healthier and exercise.

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