The targets for what's considered a "healthy" cholesterol level are
getting lower and lower, and ads touting the benefits of
cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are commonplace. So it's no surprise
that many women who don't have heart disease wonder if they should
start taking a statin for prevention. On the other hand, those who have
watched the ups and downs of hormone therapy may feel a sense of déjà
vu about the enthusiasm for these relatively new drugs. The June issue
of the Harvard Women's Health Watch says that whether you should take a statin to prevent heart disease depends upon one thing—your risk of heart attack.
your risk is low, taking a statin or any cholesterol-lowering drug
could do more harm than good. Statins can cause liver and muscle
damage, and they require close monitoring. If you're trying to avoid a
first heart attack, chances are good that some lifestyle choices—not
smoking, controlling your weight, eating a heart-healthy diet, and
getting regular exercise—may do the trick.
for women who already have heart disease or are at very high risk for
it, taking a statin, which helps lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol, is
probably a good idea—in addition to lifestyle measures. "Everyone
agrees that women with heart disease or a heart disease equivalent such
as diabetes benefit—possibly even more than men—from LDL lowering,"
says Dr. Paula Johnson, a member of the Harvard Women's Health Watch advisory board.
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