New guidelines published in the UK yesterday have lowered the blood cholesterol targets that doctors should aspire to for their patients in an effort to prevent cardiovascular disease to levels below those recommended in Europe and the USA.

The guidelines, published yesterday by the Joint British Societies (, a group of six medical bodies), now recommend a target for total cholesterol of 4.0mmol/L and for low-density lipoprotein (LDL-c) of 2.0mmol/L1 for high risk individuals or 25% reduction in total cholesterol and a 30% reduction in LDL cholesterol, whichever gets the person to the lowest absolute value.

The move is in keeping with other efforts around the world to encourage more aggressive treatment of patients with elevated cholesterol to reduce their risk of going on to develop heart disease, but go a lot further.

For example, last year the US National Cholesterol Education Programme lowering its LDL cholesterol targets for high-risk patients by 30% to 2.59mmol/l or less, while total cholesterol goals were cut to 5.17mmol/l, well above the UK’s target.

AstraZeneca, which makes the cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor (rosuvastatin), welcomed the move and said the industry now needs to work alongside doctors in ensuring patients with elevated cholesterol reach their treatment targets.

The JBS guidelines also recommend that all patients over the age of 40 should be screened for cardiovascular disease, which would boost drug prescribing and could also avoid many of the 250,000 deaths a year for heart attacks and strokes. The recommendations also update recommendations for prescribing of blood pressure drugs, as well as lifestyle changes that can mitigate cardiovascular risk.

The new guidelines are published in the medical journal Heart (December 2005).