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Are Current Cholesterol Guidelines Right for Predicting Heart Attack Risk? New Study Says No

A new large scale national study has shown that almost 75% of patients hospitalized for a heart attack had cholesterol levels that would indicate they were not at risk.

According to the current national guidelines, LDL (bad) cholesterol levels below 100-130 mg/dL are considered acceptable for most people. However, previous research has shown that LDL levels above 40-60 mg/dL can significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular events.

To explore this gap, researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA used a national database sponsored by the American Heart Association. The database houses information on patients from 541 hospitals across the nation.

The researchers reviewed data from 136,905 patients that had been hospitalized for a heart attack between 2000 and 2006. They found that among patients with no prior history of heart disease or diabetes, 72% had LDL levels less than 130 mg/dL.

Based on this information - and the current guidelines - 3 out of every 4 patients would not have been considered at risk. So it's very possible these patients wouldn't have been targeted for preventative treatment.

The researchers also found that more than half of patients with a history of heart disease had LDL levels below 100 mg/L. Almost 18% had LDL levels below 70 mg/dL.

Additionally, the study identified that HDL (good) cholesterol levels seem to have dropped in recent years. In fact, over 50% of patients had HDL levels under 40 mg/dL. The current national guidelines for HDL levels is over 45 mg/dL (the higher the better).

Based on the findings from this study a few conclusions could be drawn. It's possible that the current cholesterol guidelines are not effective in predicting the risk of cardiac events. Or, contrary to popular belief, perhaps cholesterol is not a good indicator of heart attack risk.

Either way, hopefully these results will serve as the catalyst for a new look cholesterol's role in cardiac events and a thorough review of national cholesterol guidelines.
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