Once the powerful cholesterol-busting drugs appeared, in the 1980s, scientists were able to show that a drop in cholesterol could keep a person who had suffered one heart attack or stroke from having a second. Later studies pointed to protection for even relatively healthy people. Researchers writing in the American Journal of Cardiology in 2010 declared that the drugs were such cardiovascular heroes they could essentially neutralize the health risks from a Quarter Pounder with cheese plus a milkshake.
I can't imagine taking any drug for the rest of my life without good medical reasons. That means reasons which apply to me and are not merely a product of government policy.
Sussman, of Michigan, refers to one of several online calculators that can help determine what that risk number is for any particular person. These kinds of tools take into account each person’s unique set of circumstances. In one online tool, a sedentary 60-year-old white male with a weight of 250 pounds, a total cholesterol of 225, no high blood pressure and no personal or family history of heart disease might have a 9 percent risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years. A 60-year-old African-American woman with diabetes but all other parameters the same would have a 13 percent risk.
The guiding principle Sussman tells his patients is that the lower your risk of disease in the first place, the less you have to gain from statins. Patients also have to factor in their own sense of how much they fear a heart attack or stroke — all the while knowing there are other means of prevention with almost no risk that can get lost in the statin debate, including weight loss, exercise and a better diet. That theoretical 60-year-old man with a 9 percent risk could drop his risk to about 5 percent with 20 minutes of moderate activity each day and better eating habits.