Who really needs treatmenthe medications for blood pressure and cholesterol?

High blood pressure and high cholesterol are risk factors for heart attacks and strokes (stroke), but it is unclear who needs drugs to treat these conditions, according to a recent report.

According to a new Consumer Reports review, patients should consider these factors when deciding whether to take these medications:

Rate your risk. All people over the age of 40 should know what their 10-year risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Ideally, it should be less than 7.5 percent. Consumer Reports recommends to use a calculator developed by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association to determine your risk.
    
Do not be in a hurry to take the medication. Making some changes in lifestyle could be enough to manage a slightly high blood pressure or cholesterol level. Exercise alone can significantly improve blood pressure, the review said.
    
Get the right medication. If your doctor determines that you need a medication, choose the safest option that is available. Diuretics, or liquid-removing pills, may be effective in managing hypertension. This medicine may also be used with other medicines, such as an ACE inhibitor or a calcium channel blocker. Low doses of statins, such as lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), or simvastatin (Zocor) may also help prevent a first heart attack or stroke, the authors said.

The report was published online April 6 and in the May issue of Consumer Reports.
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