Doctors are told to prescribe a cholesterol-lowering statin to anyone who they believe has at least a 10 per cent chance of suffering a stroke during the next 10 years, according to new and tougher guidelines-but instead they should be telling the patient to eat a healthy, Mediterranean diet, a leading heart specialist says.
The diet, coupled with exercise and not smoking, could be as effective as taking a statin drug, and without any of the side effects, says Dr Aseem Malhotra, a cardiologist at the Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust.
He is calling on doctors to explain to the patient the advantages, and short-comings, of statin medication, and the safer alternatives such as adopting the Mediterranean diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, olives and olive oil.
Dr Malhotra fears that the new guidelines for statin prescribing could over-medicalize an ageing population. They have been issued by the UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which has strengthened the criteria for statin-prescribing; previously, people were supposed to start statins if the doctor believed they had a 20 per cent chance of having a stroke in the next 10 years.
(Source: Prescribe, 2015; 10.1002/psb.1376)