Last updated: May 15, 2008
John Maiorana, a 65-year-old retired Navy chaplain living in Virginia Beach, Va., has been taking Lipitor every day since his quadruple bypass surgery 10 years ago. His doctor runs a simple blood test every year to check for signs of liver damagea standard procedure for anyone taking a statinbut the drug has never caused Maiorana any trouble.
"I take so many now" Watch video
Using medication to avoid surgery
If you have heart disease but have never suffered a heart attack or gone through bypass surgery, the right medications can help keep you out of the hospital. In fact, improvements in drug treatments may in part explain why bypass surgeries have sharply declined in the past decade. As more people manage to control their symptoms and slow their disease with drugs, fewer need to go under the knife.
But a prescription is just a piece of paper. You need to follow through by taking the drugs as directed. A new four-year study of patients with coronary artery disease found that patients who skimped on their prescribed medications were more than twice as likely to suffer a heart attack, a stroke, or fatal heart trouble. By some estimates, failing to take either aspirin, a beta-blocker, or a statin after a heart attack nearly triples the risk of dying within a year. Watch a video of a young heart attack survivor who admits he often skipped his cholesterol medication, and hear what he tells his younger brother about taking it.