LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A powerful class of drugs proven to save the lives of many is being largely ignored by people under 40.
The latest research examined the need for more young patients to take a closer look at statins.
For almost as long as popular statin drugs have been available, 70-year old Stanley Ivar Abrahamson, of Acton, has been taking them. He started in his 40s.
"I've had high cholesterol for quite a while," Abrahamson said.
But a new, national study found many people under 40, who should be taking the cholesterol lowering meds, are not.
The director of cardiology for Providence Medical Institute Southern California called that a big mistake.
"The No. 1 thing to save lives from heart disease is statin therapy," Dr. Daniel Eisenberg said.
Not only did researchers find that less than 45 percent of patients under the age of 40 with high cholesterol received statin therapy, they also found patients with the highest cholesterol levels - about one in four - weren't even prescribed one.
"At any age, between 20 and 40, they should be placed on these medications to prevent the heart attack that they're going to get in their 40s, 50s and 60s," Eisenberg said.
He said general practitioners may shy away from prescribing statins to younger patients because those patients think they don't need them.
Plus, many are afraid of the side effects, which can include muscle pain, cognitive issues, raised blood sugar and liver damage.
Patients under 40 may also fear having to take statins for the rest of their lives. But Eisenberg disagrees.
"This isn't jail. Going to the doctor's office ain't jail. You're going to get advice and it's usually not cheap advice. So it's probably a good idea to heed it when a doctor gives it to you," he said.
He also added many patients in their 20s, 30s and 40s don't go to their doctors regularly.
"You should have your blood cholesterol checked in your 20s and 30s, at least two or three times to see where you're at," he said.
Abrahamson's father died from a heart attack at a young age. His advice to the next generation is to get checked early.
"Anytime you can find out what's wrong with you at an earlier stage, I think it helps," Abrahamson said.
Eisenberg said because of statins, there's been a 40 percent decrease in heart-related deaths over the past 30 years.
Heart attack prevention drugs ignored by people under age 40
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