Illustration: gheatza/istockphoto

3 of 4

If you don't have high cholesterol, you might not know what a statin is. But that's likely to change. Statins, drugs typically prescribed to treat high cholesterol, are now being used to ward off heart disease in patients with no history of the disease. A proposed recommendation from the USPSTF advises that anyone ages 40 to 75 with at least one risk factor for heart disease and a 10 percent or higher chance of having a heart attack or a stroke or dying of heart disease in the next decade should take statins preventively. Why? After analyzing 18 trials, researchers discovered that heart disease risk was significantly lower among those with cardiovascular risk factors who took statins, even if their cholesterol level fell within the normal range. Your ten-year risk can be calculated by your doctor using a tool co-created by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology that's based on factors including age, sex, race, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and whether you're diabetic or a smoker.