MINNEAPOLIS – A new study shows that most people who had suffered a heart attack had normal cholesterol levels.

The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation authored the report that reviewed more than a thousand Minnesota heart attack patients.

"Your cholesterol is important but it’s only one part of the picture,” said the lead author, Dr. Michael Miedema.

He also found that many of them hadn't seen a doctor in a while.

"Well, over half of them hadn’t seen a doctor in the two years prior to their heart attack,” he said.

But the most surprising finding, said Miedema, was when he and his co-authors factored in new treatment guidelines for heart disease that were released in 2013. He found more people were eligible to take statins or cholesterol medication.

"The main finding of the study is that by the old guidelines, less than 40 percent of these people qualified for a medication before their heart attack, whereas the new guidelines, 80 percent qualified,” he said.

Before those new recommendations, doctors would typically check for cholesterol levels and if they were not elevated, they wouldn't put the patient on medication, said Miedema.

Now they look for other factors like age, gender and high blood pressure, to name a few.

"I think this study reinforces in getting a comprehensive cardiovascular risk assessment,” said Dr. Bradley Bart, chief of cardiology at Hennepin County Medical Center.

He called the study an important contribution.

"What we’ve learned from all the research is using statins reduces the risk of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease,” he said.

"If you’re found to be at enough risk, you should really think about taking statins, the cholesterol medication,” Miedema added.

He said people should be going to their doctor once a year for a routine checkup.

"And the question should be, 'What is my risk for a heart attack?'” he said.

The Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation funded the study. None of the authors of the study said they had financial backing or ties to statin drug manufacturers.