The Grapevine

How Older Adults Could Benefit From Statin Use

Doctors commonly prescribe statin drugs to young and middle-aged adults to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But a new study shows the medications may also offer the same health benefits to older people. 

Statins target the liver to help reduce levels of LDL or bad cholesterol in the body. Excess cholesterol contributes to increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. 

Studies showed that statin drugs are effective to protect young and middle-aged adults against cardiovascular disease. However, majority of these studies did not involve older population, aged 75 and over. 

“As a result, current European and American guidelines do not make clear recommendations for statin use in older adults who do not have a history of pre-existing CVD,” Dara Lee Lewis, a cardiologist and a director at the Lown Cardiovascular Center in Massachusetts, said in an article posted on Harvard Health Blog.

The latest study, published in the European Heart Journal, focuses on the effects of statins on the elderly. Researchers found that older people also experienced the same protection that drugs provide to younger groups. 

The findings come from the analysis of data on more than 120,000 men and women, aged 75 to 79, in France. All participants took statins for at least two years prior to the study without cardiovascular disease.

The researchers followed the men and women for four years and observed their health and statin intake. At the end of the study, nearly 10 percent of participants stopped taking the drugs. 

But the same group required a hospital admission due to cardiovascular disease. Researchers said stopping statins led to a 25 percent to 30 percent increase in the risk of having a heart disease or stroke. 

Side Effects Of Statins

The people who stopped taking the drugs during the study reported unwanted effects. Some participants developed cancer. 

Lewis said it is common to see side effects when taking statins. The drugs could cause muscle ache, increased risk of diabetes, liver problems, short-term memory loss and confusion.

These side effects led many doctors to not prescribing statin drugs to older patients because of unwanted effects. But Lewis said their knowledge came from studies that focused on middle-aged people. 

“As with everything we do in medicine, we must weigh the risks of statins against the benefits. In older patients, the risk of side effects may be somewhat higher, but so is the benefit,” Lewis said. “This new study tips the balance in favor of continuing statins in our older patients, to lower the risk of strokes and heart attacks.”

But she noted doctors should also look into the side effects of statins and ensure that they “do not overtreat this often-vulnerable population” to avoid health risks.

Old man A new study shows that older adults may also experience the same health benefits that statin drugs provide to young and middle-aged patients to prevent cardiovascular disease. Pixabay