Harvard Women's Health Watch

A new way to get heart-healthy

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Recently released guidelines could change the way women are treated with statin drugs.

High cholesterol is a concern to women as we age. Before menopause, estrogen protects us from heart disease, in part by increasing our HDL (good) cholesterol and lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. But by our 50s, more than half of us are dealing with elevated cholesterol levels, and with them, an increased risk for heart disease.

In the past, we lowered our cholesterol by the numbers, aiming for specific targets to reduce our chances of developing heart disease. Now that approach is changing. In November 2013, the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) released new guidelines to help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and other consequences of heart disease. The guidelines focus on heart disease risks rather than cholesterol numbers, and they could increase the number of women for whom statin drugs are recommended.

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