In February of 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the expanded use of AstraZeneca's cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor as a preventive medication for people who don't have cholesterol problems. Crestor, as well as other cholesterol-lowering drugs, or statins, including Lescol, Lipitor, Mevacor, Pravachol and Zocor, are FDA approved for people with high cholesterol levels to reduce their heart disease risk. But Crestor is the only statin to be approved for preventing heart disease in people with normal cholesterol levels.

The new use for Crestor is indicated for generally healthy people if they are older men, 50 and over, and women 60 and over with relatively low cholesterol levels but who have one risk factor, such as smoking or high blood pressure. The FDA's approval for the expanded use of Crestor in healthy people was based on a global study of 18,000 people showing a small reduction in the number of strokes and heart attacks among the volunteers taking the statin compared to those taking a placebo, or sugar pill.

However, the move to use statins prophylacticly in healthy people is raising the concerns of some medical experts questioning whether it's safe for people with a low risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke to be on statins long-term because of the potential side effects of the drugs. Patients taking statins have complained of muscle aches, generally an acceptable side effect for many people looking to ward off cardiovascular disease. But new research published in the British medical journal The Lancet is indicating that all statins, not just Crestor, could raise a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes by nine percent. 

Benefits vs. Risks

All statins carry potential risks that have to be weighed against their health benefits. Talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease and whether you could benefit from taking a statin.

Reducing Your Risk for Heart Disease

In addition to controlling high blood pressure levels, making some lifestyle changes can also lower your risk for heart disease, including:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Healthy eating-A diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat reduces cholesterol levels
  • Get moving-Exercising for just 30 minutes a day most days of the week can lower your risk for heart disease