Information provided from Erin D. Michos, MD, at John Hopkins Univ. School of Medicine:
Myth: If cholesterol is too high, you need a statin
Some people with high cholesterol do not benefit from a statin… and some people with low cholesterol actually do. LDL (bad) cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. Many factors matter,..age, gender, race, blood pressure, family history, whether you smoke, have diabetes or are sedentary.
Doctors evaluate your overall risk factors for heart disease to help determine whether to treat you with a statin. They calculate your 10-year risk of having a heart attack or stroke. A score of 7.5% or higher means a statin is “recommended”, whatever your cholesterol number.
Even if the score is 7.5% or higher, you still may not need a statin. Studies have shown the calculator developed by American Heart Assoc. & American College of Cardiology may overestimate the risk.
If your score is high, ask your doctor about a coronary artery calcium(CAC) scan, which detects calcium deposits in arterial plaque. If the CAC score is zero, there is no need for a statin. If it is high(101 or higher), that means a high risk for heart disease, and a statin is generally recommended.
If it is in the middle between one and 100? That is a decision to make with the doctor, considering other risk factors..along with your personal preference about whether you want to start taking a statin.
Myth: Baby aspirin a day keeps heart disease away
A number of recent studies conducted at major medical research institutions have confirmed that most healthy people without known heart disease should not be taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart attacks.
The ARRIVE trial looked a more than 12,500 men (age 55 and older) and women (age 60 or older) who were at moderate risk for heart attack, while the ASPREE study included more that 19,000 healthy low risk adults over age 65.
Both studies were designed to determine whether a daily aspirin would prevent a first heart attack or stroke. The low-dose aspirin did not reduce the risk in either study..it also increased the risk for major gastrointestinal bleeding. More alarming, in ASPREE, the group randomly assigned to take aspirin experienced more deaths from cancer.
IMPORTANT: Aspirin still is recommended for patients who have had a heart attack already to prevent a second one. BUT if you are healthy and popping a daily aspirin, ask your doctor about stopping your aspirin.
MYTH:The higher your level of HDL “good” Cholesterol, themore protected you are from heart disease.
HDL is the so-called “good” cholesterol because it helps removes “bad” LDL cholesterol from the blood stream. Studies have found that people with high HDL seem to have lower risk for heart disease. New research casts doubt on whether it’s truly protective. No drug therapies that boost HDL have been shown to reduce heart disease risk.
Too high a level of HDL may be harmful. Two recent studies have shown an association between very high levels of HDL (above 80 mg/dL) and increased heart attacks and death from all causes. It is not known why this is, it may be that very high HDL indicates your HDL is not functioning properly.
Until more is known, focus on the heart disease risks that you can control, such as increasing physical activity, optimizing body weight and keeping triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar under control.
MYTH: Unless I have diabetes, my blood sugar levels will not affect my heart health.
Blood sugar that is consistently even just a little above means you have prediabetes. As a result, you are not only at greater increased risk for diabetes but also heart disease. It’s a wake-up call to improve your lifestyle, including weight loss. (often losing 10 pounds is enough to bring blood sugar back to normal), increasing dietary fiber…eliminating sugar-sweetened drinks and processed meats…and exercising are very important.
Taking a 30 minute daily walk, you can reduce the risk of prediabetes, it can reduce the risk of diabetes by 30 %