High cholesterol is a concern for many older adults, and it can lead to further cardiovascular health and wellness problems including heart disease, heart attack and strokes.

Luckily, medications like statins work to lower cholesterol to healthier levels, reducing the risk of more serious complications.

This past November, experts announces there were new guidelines to determine who needed to take statins. Prior to this, doctors prescribe this type of medication if total, LDL "bad" cholesterol and triglycerides were too high or a patient was too much of a risk for heart problems. However, the guidelines hadn't been updated in about 10 years, so the government and a group of cardiologists examined newer research pertaining to the benefits of statins and other impacts on heart disease, according to AARP.

The new guidelines focus less on specific numbers but more on four categories of people at risk. This includes:

  • People who have been diagnosed with heart disease or have had a heart attack
  • People with LDL levels of 190 mg/dL or higher
  • People who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and their LDL is 70 mg/dL or higher
  • People whose risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke in the next decade is 7.5 percent or higher based on the new health risk calculator, which takes into account gender, age, race and heart risks.

Should you be taking a statin?
If you fit into one or more of these categories, it's now suggested that you start a statin regimen.

Michael Blaha, director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, told AARP that people may not need to take a statin if their only risk factor is age, and Dr. Oluseyi Ojeifo, Ciccarone Center, noted that if people are already taking a statin, they should talk to their doctor about why they started taking the medication originally. If they still face the same risks, according to the new guidelines, they could continue to benefit from taking it.

What else can you do?
In addition to the possibility of taking a statin to reduce the risk of heart problems, heart attacks and strokes, there are other changes you can make to improve your chances. Examine your diet and determine what you should cut out. Avoid processed, fatty foods and stick to fruits, vegetables and lean meats. A Mediterranean-style diet has also been shown to help lower cholesterol levels. It's also important to exercise regularly at least 150 minutes a week, and avoid harmful life choices. If you're a smoker, you should quit now and/or avoid second-hand smoke. Additionally, you should drink in moderation if you partake in alcohol.