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New guidelines for treating cholesterol

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Joyce Enright, 64, has been taking cholesterol lowering drugs for seven years.

"I just couldn't get it under control myself," she said. "It was time."

Doctors used to rely on a specific cholesterol level to determine which patients needed the drugs known as statins. Now new guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology are recommending statins for four high risk groups.

"Let's recommend therapies that make a difference," said Dr. Neil Stone of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, an author of the study.

The groups include: patients with cardiovascular disease, those with a bad cholesterol 190 or higher, patients between 40 and 75 with Type 2 diabetes and patients between 40 and 75 with a 10-year elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.

"We're talking about intensive lifestyle, the proper statin if they qualify and then a discussion," Stone said.

But some cardiologists worry more people will be on statins who may not need them.

"It can cause muscle pain, it can cause joint pain, it could cause liver problems, elevation of liver enzymes. It could cause memory loss," said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist.

The guidelines also emphasize a heart-healthy lifestyle. In Enright's case diet and exercise were not enough, plus she had a family history.

"I'm healthier now," she said.

Doctors say guidelines help, but stress each patient needs to be evaluated individually.

The new guidelines include recommendations for prescribing statins, saying higher doses may be best for some patients.

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