A new calculator aimed at figuring out heart health is being called into question. NY1 Health Reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.
You may have heard the news about a new way to calculate your heart attack and stroke risk. Those guidelines, out last week from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, are making waves in the medical community.
"There is certainly a question of whether this risk calculator is going to double the number of people that are taking statins who may not need to be taking statins," says Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital.
A New York Times article questions whether that calculator greatly overestimates the risk for folks between the ages of 40 and 75 with no history of heart disease, saying the data behind the calculator is outdated.
"It's not just about the items that are in the calculator, but it's how much weight each of those items is given," explains Dr. Narula. "So if that risk calculation is off, then you can imagine that you're going to end up over treating people."
In a statement, the ACC says its standing by the guidelines and its related tools, saying it's based on the best evidence available. Some experts though urge further evaluation of the calculations. But doctors who spoke with NY1 say the recommendations are a step in the right direction, taking the heart health conversation beyond cholesterol scores.
"It's surprising everyone including the patients who think they've been doing a really good thing knowing their numbers. Instead we’re telling them to know their risk for heart disease," says Dr. Nieca Goldberg, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center.
Experts agree with the other new guidelines that say folks with heart disease, diabetes, and LDLs or bad cholesterol - over 190 - should be on statin therapy.
The new recommendations also stressed that medication is no substitute for regular exercise and eating healthy, including diets with less meat and saturated fats.
"People also need to watch their carb intake. A lot of sugar and starches not only raises your blood sugar, it raises your blood pressure," says Dr. Goldberg.
But the doctors stress the guidelines are just that.
"They're a road map that should help physicians figure out what they want to do, working one on one on a case by case basis with their patients. They're not meant to replace a physicians clinical judgment," adds Dr. Narula.