Cholesterol levels are usually thought of in terms of just numbers.
But experts now say there’s a lot more to it than that.
And, they say, there’s plenty a person and their doctor can do about it.
New cholesterol guidelines have been published by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.
Researchers from the two organizations incorporated new findings into previous guidelines that were adopted in 2013.
“These are not opinion-based guidelines. These were evidence-based guidelines, meaning that they reflect what’s new in the field,” Dr. Neil J. Stone, a professor of medicine (cardiology) and preventive medicine at Northwestern University in Illinois and vice chair of the writing committee for the guidelines, told Healthline.
The new guidelines include a threshold level of 70 milligrams per deciliter for low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol for high-risk people who have a history of heart attack or stroke.
The recommendations include an aggressive program of statins for certain individuals.
The guidelines also have a special focus on the discussions between clinicians and patients about trying to prevent heart attack or stroke.
“The 2013 guideline was one, really the first, guideline to put a sharp focus on the shared decision-making. These new guidelines are able to personalize that risk discussion much more than doctors were aware of with the last guidelines,” Stone said.
He says 25 years ago, people basically said, “Know your cholesterol.”
About 10 years ago, the focus shifted to risk.
“And that was amplified five years ago. And now we’re saying, not only know your risk, but let’s personalize your risk,” Stone said.
This new perspective means unprecedented customized care.
Dr. Leslie Cho, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told Healthline that everybody should be concerned about cholesterol since “the number one cause of death in [the] U.S. is still heart disease.”