Statins cut heart attack, stroke risk even in older adults, study says

Taking statins can reduce the risk for death even in older adults, a new study has found. Photo by LizM/Pixabay
Taking statins can reduce the risk for death even in older adults, a new study has found. Photo by LizM/Pixabay

July 7 (UPI) -- Older adults can reduce risk for a fatal heart attack or stroke by 20 percent by taking a prescription statin drug, according to a study published Tuesday by JAMA.

Those over age 75 who were newly prescribed the cholesterol-lowering drugs were 25 percent less likely to die during the seven-year study period than those who didn't take them, the researchers said.


"Our results held even in those over age 90 and in those with dementia," co-author Dr. Ariela Orkaby, physician scientist at the VA Boston Health Care System, told UPI.

Study participants more than 90 years old who were prescribed statins reduced their risk for death by 20 percent over the seven-year follow-up period, she and her colleagues found.

Based on their results, a person's age should not be a factor in the decision of whether to start statin treatment, said Orkaby, who also works at Brigham & Women's Hospital and teaches at Harvard Medical School.

Some 40 million Americans take statins to lower cholesterol, according to recent estimates. However, the drugs generally aren't recommended for people over 75 due to side effect risk.


Orkaby and her colleagues at Brigham and Women's Hospital and VA Boston Healthcare System analyzed data on veterans age 75 and older who used Department of Veterans Affairs services between 2002 and 2012. Study participants had no prior history of heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular event, the researchers said.

Of the more than 300,000 eligible veterans, the researchers identified more than 57,000 who began taking statins during the study period.

They compared the health status of people who started statins to those who had the same likelihood of being prescribed a statin based on clinical characteristics but were not prescribed the drug, they said.

Taking statins was associated with a lower risk of death from a cardiovascular event or death from any cause, according to the researchers. Starting a statin also was associated with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke, they said.

However, the study focused only on veterans, a predominantly white and male population, which means the results might not be the same for other populations, the researchers said.

In addition, "it is possible that there are other factors involved," Orkaby said. "For example, those who were prescribed a statin may have had other healthy behaviors that also lowered their risk of death and cardiovascular events."


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