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Timothy asked...

Cholesterol query

I have recently had a GP health check. My cholesterol was 5.6 and I was told that because of age and other factors, I had crept above the 10% mark to 12% of likelihood of having a heart attack in the next ten years. I was prescribed statins - Lipitor 20mg. I have just started to take them, but feel uneasy about this. My BMI was 24 and there is no history of heart attacks in my family. My father did have a mild stroke aged 84, but lived to 96. My mother is still alive, also 96. Liver and kidney functions were reported to be fine. Is the risk of statins really worth it against the risk of heart attacks in my case? What is normal? Are the GPs just doing what is generally recommended to avoid any comeback?

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The answer

NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) publish evidence-based guidelines that GP’s are expected to follow. The current guidelines state that any patient with a QRISK2 ( % risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years) score of 10% or more should be prescribed a statin. Atorvastatin 20mg is usually the first statin of choice. As I’m sure you are aware, Lipitor is the brand name for atorvastatin.

Your GP has certainly followed the NICE guidelines correctly and it is generally felt that the benefits in terms of protection against a heart attack and stroke are worth the risks in cases such as yours. How you GP has dealt with this is perfectly normal. However, the decision of whether to take a statin should be a joint one and you need to feel happy that it is the right choice for you.

It is also worth remembering that if you start taking a statin and experience unpleasant side effects it can be stopped or changed to a different one.

You are certainly not alone - many patients do find it hard to decide whether to start taking statins and to understand whether their benefits outweigh the risks. We have provided two links below that we think will make the decision process easier for you. Both are aimed towards patients who are having to decide whether to start taking a statin or not.

Nice - Should I be taking statins?

Nice - lipid modification

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses  

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