You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Guidelines call for wider use of statins

Almost half of Americans ages 40 to 75 and nearly all men over 60 qualify to consider cholesterol-lowering statin drugs under new heart disease prevention guidelines, an analysis concludes.

It is the first independent look at the impact of the guidelines issued in November, and it shows how dramatically they shift more people toward treatment. Supporters say the guidelines reveal the true scope of heart risks in America. Critics have said the guidelines overreach by suggesting medications such as Zocor and Lipitor for such a broad swath of the population.

Continue reading below

‘‘We wanted to be really objective and just quantify what the guidelines do, and not get into a discussion about whether they are correct,’’ said Michael Pencina, the Duke University biostatistician who led the analysis.

It was published online Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Under the new guidelines, 56 million Americans ages 40 to 75 are eligible to consider a statin; 43 million were under the old advice. Both numbers include 25 million people taking statins now.

‘‘That is striking . . . eye-opening,’’ Dr. Daniel Rader of the University of Pennsylvania said of the new estimate.

Nearly half a million additional heart attacks and strokes could be prevented over 10 years if statin use was expanded as the guidelines recommend, the study estimates.

The guidelines, developed by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology at the request of the federal government, were a big change.

They give a new formula for estimating risk that includes blood pressure, smoking status, and many factors besides the level of LDL, or ‘‘bad’’ cholesterol, the main focus in the past.

For the first time, the guidelines are personalized for men and women and blacks and whites, and they take aim at strokes, not just heart attacks. Partly because of that, they set a lower threshold for using statins to reduce risk.

The guidelines say statins do the most good for people who already have heart disease, those with very high LDL of 190 or more, and people over 40 with Type 2 diabetes.

They also recommend considering statins for anyone 40 to 75 who has an estimated 10-year risk of heart disease of 7.5 percent or higher, based on the new formula.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.