Who should be taking statins?

Dr. Jen Ashton appears live on "GMA" to discuss a new study that says millions of American should be taking the lifesaving drugs.
2:28 | 04/19/17

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Transcript for Who should be taking statins?
We're back now with that health headline about statins. 39 million Americans are already on the cholesterol fighting pills. Now, a new study says millions more are at risk and should be taking the drugs. Our senior medical contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton is here with more. From 17 to 26 million more people. Exactly. A big report. Let me explain. Basically about two professional group, U.S. Preventive task force and American heart association and respective guidelines about who meets criteria to be eligible for a statin medication to prevent heart disease. So, again, you heard the numbers. U.S. Preventive service task force using this analysis and estimates 17 million new prescriptions for statins according to the American heart association, they used broader criteria and got 26 million Staten prescriptions. We have to remember heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the country and that's why it's getting so much attention. What are the facts to determine whether you should be on them. Both groups are using the same risk factor, age, cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and then a calculated risk of a cardiac event over a ten-year period. I have some people here who are helping me today. So, basically if you look at those criteria. You would be in the preventive service task force. Maybe age between 40 and 75. You have a risk factor like high cholesterol and ten-year risk of a heart attack is over 10%. Maybe you just have diabetes. But don't worry, you're going to make it. You might be under 40 years of age but have one risk factor and you might just have high cholesterol, these groups -- these people would be in the American heart association number answer that's why they wound up with more people and broadened their criteria. There are downsides and riches. What are those. Risk versus benefits and take into account cost when you talk about a medication. When you talk about risks of statins there's a low risk of muscle ache and increased risk of diabetes development in women but we have to be clear. This is something that has to be individualized patient to patient and we have to remember statins work in other ways than just lowering that number and other things other than lifestyle could raise it. There are other lifestyle. Not smoking. 80% of heart disease preventible by modifying risk factors. You're all going to make it, by the way. You're going to survive.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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