Applied Evidence

Translating AHA/ACC cholesterol guidelines into meaningful risk reduction

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In adults ≥ 20 years of age with moderate hypertriglyceridemia, lifestyle factors (eg, obesity, metabolic syndrome), secondary factors (eg, DM, chronic liver or kidney disease, nephrotic syndrome, hypothyroidism), and medications that increase the TG level need to be addressed first. In adults 40 to 75 years of age with moderate or severe hypertriglyceridemia and a PCE-calculated ASCVD risk ≥ 7.5%, it is reasonable to reevaluate risk after lifestyle and secondary factors are addressed and to consider a persistently elevated TG level as a factor favoring initiation or intensification of statin therapy. In adults 40 to 75 years of age with severe hypertriglyceridemia and ASCVD risk ≥ 7.5%, it is reasonable to address reversible causes of a high TG level and to initiate statin therapy.1

Other considerations in cholesterol management

Tools to assess adherence

The response to lifestyle and statin therapy should be evaluated by the percentage reduction in the LDL-C level compared with baseline, not by assessment of the absolute LDL-C level. When seeing a patient whose treatment is ongoing, a baseline level can be estimated using a desktop LDL-calculator app.

When pregnancy is planned, statin therapy should be discontinued 1-2 months before pregnancy is attempted.

Adherence and percentage response to LDL-C–lowering medications and lifestyle changes should be evaluated with repeat lipid measurement 4 to 12 weeks after either a statin is initiated or the dosage is adjusted, and repeated every 3 to 12 months as needed. In patients with established ASCVD who are at very high risk, triggers for adding nonstatin therapy are defined by a threshold LDL-C level ≥ 70 mg/dL on maximal statin therapy.1

Interventions focused on improving adherence to prescribed therapy are recommended for management of adults with an elevated cholesterol level. These interventions include telephone reminders, calendar reminders, integrated multidisciplinary educational activities, and pharmacist-led interventions, such as simplification of the medication regimen to once-daily dosing.1

Statin safety and associated adverse effects

A physician–patient risk discussion is recommended before initiating statin therapy to review net clinical benefit, during which the 2 parties weigh the potential for ASCVD risk reduction against the potential for statin-associated adverse effects, statin–drug interactions, and safety, with the physician emphasizing that adverse effects can be addressed successfully.

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