Dr. Paul Padfield said that the number of statin drugs prescribed by UK doctors has recently risen dramatically because physicians find it simpler to prescribe the drugs to low-risk patients rather than persuade them to make healthy lifestyle changes.
People with low risk of heart disease are being put on blood pressure and cholesterol drugs, "turning them into patients," Padfield said.
"All of us have a risk of heart attack and stroke, it just depends on how high that risk should be before we decide to treat it with drugs," said Padfield. "There is a lot of high blood pressure in our society which is to do with environmental factors such as we are too heavy and we consume too much salt. Addressing those will lower blood pressure and, to some extent, cholesterol."
Padfield recommended doctors target the highest-risk patients for drug therapies, and put in the necessary work to convince lower-risk patients to eat better and exercise more to reduce the need for the drugs.
Britain's National Health Service (NHS) recently urged physicians to prescribe statin drugs to patients with a 20 percent risk of developing cardiovascular disease within 10 years -- as well as those with heart disease already -- in hopes of saving money by lowering the number of people who require expensive heart surgeries.
Statin drugs cause the liver to slow down its production of cholesterol, which can reduce total cholesterol in patients. However, critics of the drugs maintain that they are only a temporary fix, and the only real treatment for high cholesterol and blood pressure is a healthy diet and increased physical exercise.
"Lifestyle is of course a contributory factor to fatal diseases," said Health Minister Andy Kerr. "So, as well as investing in the right care and treatment, we need to help people in helping themselves to head healthier lives so there is less chance of them becoming ill.
"Stopping smoking, improving diet and increasing levels of physical activity are at the heart of health improvement," Kerr said.