New Heart Attack Guidelines Met With Controversy

A recent attempt by a group of cardiovascular experts to issue new guidelines and offer a risk calculator for patients who might be at risk of suffering a heart attack has come under fire from health professionals across the country.

The resulting confusion could make the work of doctors and jobs for registered nurses much more complicated as they try to sort through the new rules and decide how much to rely on the flawed calculator.

Overestimating risk
The biggest problem with the rollout of the new guidelines has been an online risk calculator intended to make it easier for physicians to determine whether their patients need to start taking cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins. As it turned out, the calculator overestimated the risk for most people.

The group that issued the rules recommended that anyone who is deemed to have more than a 7.5 percent chance of experiencing a heart attack over the next decade should go on medication to control their cholesterol levels. But Harvard Medical School professors Paul Ridker and Nancy Cook, who tested the calculator, found that it overestimated risk by 75 to 150 percent.

How to proceed
In response to the flawed rollout, health professionals are calling for a delay in any further implementation of the new guidelines and risk calculator until more information can be gathered, despite the fact that the current measures were introduced after five years of study.

"We have waited many years for these guidelines. It seems prudent to wait a little longer to make certain that the guidelines function as intended." Dr. Steven Nissen, chief of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, told CNN in an email.

The group that issued the guidelines responded to those critiques by noting that the calculator was meant to be one tool in the effort to head off heart attack risk, adding that it should only be used as part of a collaborative approach between the patient and his or her physician.

As for those physicians and their colleagues with careers in nursing, for the time being it will be up to them to decide how to proceed and whether or not they want to rely on the guidelines and calculator before those tools have been fully vetted.

This article is sponsored by Western Governors University, a nonprofit, accredited, online university. WGU offers online RN to BSN, BSN to MSN, and RN to MSN degree programs to working nurses who already have a current RN license. To find out more, please visit

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