Washington: A new study now finds that statin therapy reduces risk of cardiovascular disease in older people.
The study saw researchers assessing the effects of statins in nearly 1,87,000 people who had taken part in 28 large clinical trials.
Participants were divided into six age groups in order to assess the effects of statins on major vascular events (heart attacks/strokes/coronary revascularisations), cancer incidence and deaths.
Speaking about the study, lead author Professor Anthony Keech, said, “Statin therapy has been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease in a wide range of people, but there has been uncertainty about its efficacy and safety among older people. Our study summarised all the available evidence from major trials to help clarify this issue. We found that there were significant reductions in major vascular events in each of the six age groups considered, including patients aged over 75 at the start of treatment.”
Notably, statins help lower the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood and are prescribed to millions of people globally. Having a high level of LDL cholesterol can lead to hardening and narrowing of the arteries and cardiovascular disease.
The researchers found that, overall, statin treatment reduced the risk of a major vascular event by about a quarter for each millimole per litre reduction in LDL cholesterol, even in older people.
In addition, the new study found that statin therapy did not increase the risk of deaths from non-cardiovascular disease, or the risk of cancer, at any age.
Co-investigator, Dr Jordan Fulcher from the University of Sydney, explained that statin therapy appears to be just as effective in people aged over 75 years as it is in younger people.
Fulcher added, “We have definitive evidence that statins benefit older people who have suffered a heart attack or stroke. Fewer healthy older people were represented in these trials, so more information in this group of people would help confirm the same benefits that we see in our overall trials population. A new randomised trial in Australia, called STAREE1, is specifically exploring whether statin treatment can prolong survival free of disability in a healthy elderly population.”
Co-investigator Professor Colin Baigent added that the risk of heart attacks and strokes increases markedly with age, and yet statins are not utilised as widely in older people as they should be. Since the risk of heart attack and stroke increases with age, the potential benefits are likely to be even greater for older people.