The number of people in the United States taking cholesterol-lowering drugs will nearly triple in coming years to roughly 36 million if physicians adhere to new guidelines issued by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in Bethesda, Md. Also, the number of people instructed to consume a low-cholesterol diet would rise from 52 million to 65 million.
The guidelines, summarized in the May 16 Journal of the American Medical Association, call for more aggressive treatment of the people at greatest risk of heart disease. Specifically, people with low-density lipoprotein of 130 milligrams per deciliter of blood or higher would get cholesterol-lowering drugs. Doing so, says NHLBI Director Claude Lenfant, can reduce short-term risk of heart disease by 40 percent and cut long-term risk by even more.