Most people taking medication would rather not have to take it. Likewise, some may not actually need it according to a new study on individuals taking high cholesterol medication.

Half of Americans over 40 have considered or are now taking cholesterol-lowering drugs even though, according to the recent study, their chances of having a heart attack are small.

Some cardiologists are now saying cholesterol alone isn’t going to cause heart disease by itself.

“We used to just think of it as ‘Your cholesterol causes plaque build-up, cholesterol causes heart disease,’” Dr. Mike Miedema, a cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute at Abbott Northwestern, said. “It’s very clear that it’s your cholesterol plus your blood pressure, plus what you eat, plus how much you exercise and your stress level.”

Dr. Miedema, who also took part in the study, suggests high cholesterol does not mean you will have a heart attack. But, patients who are concerned with their cholesterol should receive a scan to determine plaque levels in the arteries. He says how much plaque in the arteries is a better indicator of heart disease risk.

This simple scan could help individuals not at risk with higher cholesterol avoid having to take cholesterol-lowering medications.

Dr. Miedema says heart medications can lead to side effects and don’t benefit individuals with very little risk for having a heart attack.

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