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They say statins do the most good for:

—People who already have heart disease.

—Those with LDL of 190 or higher, usually because of genetic risk.

—People ages 40 to 75 with Type 2 diabetes.

—People ages 40 to 75 who have an estimated 10-year risk of heart disease of 7.5 percent or higher, based on the new formula. (This means that for every 100 people with a similar risk profile, seven or eight would have a heart attack or stroke within 10 years.)

Despite a small increased risk of muscle problems and accelerating diabetes in patients already at risk for it, statins are “remarkably safe drugs” whose benefits outweigh their risks, said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, preventive-medicine chief at Northwestern.

The patents on Lipitor, Zocor and other statins have expired, and they are widely available in generic versions for as little as a dime a day. One that is still under patent protection is AstraZeneca’s Crestor, which had sales of $8.3 billion in 2012.

Aspirin — widely used to lower the risk of strokes and heart attacks — is not addressed in the guidelines. And many drugs other than statins are still recommended for certain people, such as those with high triglycerides.

Patients should not stop taking any heart drug without first checking with their doctor.

The guidelines also say:

—Adults 40 to 79 should get an estimate every four to six years of their chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke over the next decade using the new formula. It includes age, sex, race, cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. If risk remains unclear, doctors can consider family history or three other tests. The best one is a coronary artery calcium test, an X-ray to measure calcium in heart arteries.

—For those 20 to 59, an estimate of their lifetime risk of a heart attack or stroke can be considered using traditional factors like cholesterol and blood pressure to persuade them to change their lifestyle.

—To fight obesity, doctors should develop individualized weight loss plans including a moderately reduced calorie diet, exercise and behavior strategies. The best ones offer two or three in-person meetings a month for at least six months. Web or phone-based programs are a less-ideal option.

—Everyone should get at least 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise three or four times a week.

—People should eat a “dietary pattern” focused on vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Include low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, beans and healthy oils and nuts. Limit sweets, sweet drinks, red meat, saturated fat and salt.

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