Tips on when you might need medication for blood pressure, cholesterol

Experts agree that high blood pressure and high cholesterol increase your risk of having a heart attack. What they don’t agree on is who should be taking medication to treat those conditions—and that can cause some issues. Doctors and patients might be confused about when it’s time to use medication to treat high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Consumer Reports says to focus on your overall risk. Everyone over the age of 40 should know their 10-year risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. There’s an online tool that’ll help you estimate that. If it’s 10 percent or higher, you probably need a drug to lower your cholesterol. But if it’s less than that, consider diet, exercise and losing weight before starting medication. Some of those things can have a big impact. For example, exercise can actually lower your blood pressure by almost 9 points. That’s a lot and could mean you don’t even need medication.

When it comes to medication, Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs says if you must take a cholesterol or blood pressure drug, it’s best to start with one that has a long record of safety and effectiveness. For high blood pressure CR recommends diuretics, or water pills. And suggest low doses of statin drugs to prevent a first heart attack or stroke.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed some good news for those with extremely high cholesterol for whom nothing else will work to lower it. The drug Repatha could cut their risk by 15 percent. But it costs about $1,000 a month.

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