The subject of statins and cholesterol is a super-complicated one. And your doctor probably doesn’t have time for super-complicated.

In-a-rush doctors all too often see a total cholesterol score higher than 200 and automatically pull out the prescription pad.

Or they quickly plug your age, cholesterol numbers and a few other variables into a simplistic heart-risk calculator to decide if you can benefit from a statin. Heck, they may as well use a Magic 8 Ball!

Given all the side effects of statins—including insomnia, muscle pain and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes—the last thing you want is to be taking a statin if it’s unlikely to prevent a heart attack in your situation.

As inconvenient as it may be, total cholesterol is NOT an effective gauge for heart attack risk. Before agreeing to statins, what you need is a complete picture of your risk for heart disease, heart attack or stroke. And the only way you can get the full picture is with these additional tests that measure other important risk factors beyond cholesterol counts. They’re not part of a standard checkup so be prepared to ask for them and even demand them if necessary.

Also (you may not want to hear this) simple changes to your diet can make a huge difference in your heart health and even eliminate your need for a statin. Watch this video with leading cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum to see how making better food choices could reduce your risk for heart disease by 70%!

You can reduce your risk for heart disease AND reduce your risk for the “statin curse.” Doing it is probably easier than you think!