The Best Tests to Determine if You Need Statins

by | Nov 11, 2015 | Aging gracefully, Heart Health | 0 comments

I’m not an expert on statin drugs – or any drug for that matter. And I’m also not an expert about how to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

But since statins are now among the most widely-prescribed drugs, it makes sense to make sure you’re taking them for the right reasons.

Are we using the best tests to determine who really needs statins?

The new guidelines that determine if you’re eligible for a statin prescription include two main factors –

1. If you’re at increased risk for cardiovascular disease (or you already have it), and
2. If you have elevated LDL cholesterol

Some experts estimate that under these guidelines, half to two-thirds or more of all adults over 60 are eligible for statins. That’s a lot of people taking these drugs. And typically, once you start taking statins it’s a lifelong commitment.

Before you join that long line of people at the prescription pick-up counter, be aware that there are other tests that can give you lots more information about your risk for cardiovascular disease.

One is a simple blood test that measures the level of oxidized cholesterol. Oxidized cholesterol is the form of the cholesterol molecule that actually does the damage to the arterial wall. It forms in a higher amount when your body is in a chronic pre-inflamed state.

A second test is an even better predictor of cardiovascular problems – a scan to see how much calcium has been deposited in the walls of the coronary arteries.

scan of coronary calcium

Recently, scientists scanned almost 5,000 people who would otherwise be prescribed statins and found that half of them had nearly zero calcium deposition and thus almost zero reason to take statins.

If you’re trying to lower your cardiovascular risk, there are many things you can do besides taking statins.

are all known to reduce blood pressure.

Statins may have a role to play, too. If your doctor has recommended statins, just make sure the recommendation is based on the most up to date and complete information available. You may be taking those pills a long, long time.

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