According to leading heart experts a newly released study promises to forever change the way cardiology is practiced in the United States.
Researchers have found popular cholesterol-lowering drugs can significantly lower the risk for heart attack among people without high cholesterol, increasing by millions the number of Americans who can benefit from the drugs.
Lowering cholesterol levels has been a key component to heart attack prevention plans.
But now doctors have identified a new factor.
"Even if your cholesterol level is low you can be at high risk for heart attack and stroke," said Dr. Paul Ridker of Brigham and Women's Hospital.
That's because high levels of an inflammatory marker in the blood, called c-reactive protein or CRP, also increases the risk for heart problems.
Now a new study finds patients who have low cholesterol, but high CRP, can lower their risk for heart attack by taking popular cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins.
Researchers tested the statin Crestor on nearly 18,000 adult men and women worldwide, and found those taking the drug had a 54 percent reduced risk for heart attack and a 48 percent reduced risk for stroke.
The benefit was so profound researchers stopped the study early so patients taking placebo pills could be treated.
However, not all experts are on board, stating statins come with their own list of side effects like muscle weakness and memory problems.
"This study was stopped early so there may be adverse effects which would emerge were those drugs used longer," said Dr. Mike Napton of the British Heart Foundation.
If the study findings hold up it could mean an additional 5 to 10 million Americans are put on statin therapy.
For now, however, experts say talking with your doctor about a personalized heart attack prevention plan is the best prescription.
Expanding the number of patients taking statins could increase health care costs by billions of dollars, even if generic drugs are used.