This morning after my workout, getting myself ready for work, I overheard two ladies in casual conversation, talking about their methods of sustaining themselves during a marathon. One lady took gel packs and washed it down with water, while the other one stopped at every water station, drinking half and pouring half on her head.
For whatever reason, it brought me back to the media announcement of the proposed new cholesterol level guidelines. (Pretty abstract thinking for a gal that, according to a random “brain test” I just took, is a left brain thinker…lol). When I first read the title, my initial reaction was, “Crap, more drugs forced on people.” But when I actually opened the article I was pleasantly surprised to see that the recommendations for cholesterol medications were based on risk factors not just blanket numbers. So, a bit more “customed” versus “cookie cutter”. Hence, my relating the ladies’ morning conversation to the cholesterol recommendations. What works for one person may not be a good fit for another.
On the other hand, what was extremely disappointing to read, was that they (those secret statisticians) are predicting that the new guidelines may result in another 70 million people on statins. How can this be so? Again, back to the risk factors. Let’s work with an example…
Take a 50-year-old African-American female with a Total cholesterol level of 170 mg/dl and a HDL (good cholesterol) of 60mg/dl. She is not a smoker, but does have mildly elevated blood systolic (top number) pressure of 140 and type II diabetes. By current guidelines this person does not need statins b/c she has a cholesterol level less than 200 and a HDL greater than 40 mg/dl. WooHoo…oh…but wait…let’s apply the new guidelines.
With the new proposed guidelines, we have to now take into account her age, ethnicity, the blood pressure and diabetes (in conjunction with the total cholesterol and HDL). If the combined information shows a 7.5% or greater risk of having a heart attack over the next 10 years, this person would need to be on a cholesterol lowering medication. Say whaaattt!? But her cholesterol level is on 170…well below 200! Doesn’t matter, she has other factors that increase her heart attack risk. In this specific example, she has a 10.1% risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years. Change the ethnicity to a Caucasian female and she just dropped to a 3% risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years. Interestingly, over a lifetime, both of them have a 50% chance of having a heart attack.
We can look at this from another angle. Take the same 50-year-old African-American female, but she is a health fanatic! She works out every day, eats whole foods, eliminates most processed foods, doesn’t smoke, have high blood pressure or smoke. However, her total cholesterol is 230, HDL is 60 and systolic (top number) blood pressure is 100. Since her total cholesterol is above 200, her doctor may talk to her about using medication to lower cholesterol. However, by the new proposed guidelines she is only at a 0.7% risk of having a heart attack over the next 10 years and a 39% risk of having a heart attack in her lifetime. No medication intervention needed for this gal!
Bottom line is this…the medical community is recognizing that we are not getting healthier on our own…and they are using drugs to help this unfortunately growing population. Any study done on cholesterol lowering medications with the United States’ current middle age population is going to show benefit because a majority have too many risk factors. If they did a study on a population made up of a majority of healthy individuals then cholesterol lowering medications would not show much of a benefit.
The great thing about this…we are in charge of our own lives! It is up to us to decide whether or not to eat the apple or the Twinkie; to flop on the couch or go for a walk/jog/run; or bring a salad to work or run to the local fast food joint. How empowering is it to know that the rules are changing in favor of more “customizing” and less “cookie cutter” medical treatment. AND, even MORE empowering…by taking charge of our health, we can greatly influence the outcome.
Let’s share the health…you deserve it!
Hey Donna! Your Mom said you were blogging, so I thought I would check it out. Great blog! I’m really enjoying the content and actionable advice. As for us we let the Apple into the house, but asked the Twinkie to leave after we read his label. We don’t want our son playing with weapons of mass destruction. We hope an organic grocery store comes to town soon because the traditional grocery store’s organic section isn’t all that healthy. The organic section seems to be a treasure hunt each week. They move it to wherever there’s an open crevice and hang an organic sign over it. The treasure hunt is fun, but I want my booty alive when I find it. There are rumors of Whole Foods coming soon. Hopefully they are more than rumors. We do have a lot of farmer’s markets in the area, so that’s been great. We are also looking into CSAs. Keep up the good work Donna!
Thanks Brian! Our grocery store up the road, HEB, does a pretty good job in their organic section…and pretty reasonable prices. But I’ll be thrilled the day when the “conventional” section is smaller than the organic section!
Spread the word…the more we talk the more we make health the social norm!
Hugs to Teddy!