A new study reveals that men and women over age 65 can benefit from taking statins regardless of their history of stroke or heart attack, but researchers remain hesitant to universally recommend the cholesterol-lowering drugs.
For the study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers at Federico II University in Italy analyzed data from eight previous trials that included nearly 25,000 participants. The patients in the trials had not previously suffered a heart attack or stroke, but were considered at risk for cardiovascular disease.
In all the trials, researchers compared the benefits of taking a statin to taking a placebo for an average of 3.5 years. Statins reduced the risk of heart attack by about 29% and the risk of stroke by nearly 24%, the Italian researchers found. However, they did not find that statins prevented death from cardiovascular disease.
"This is the first time the benefit of these drugs has been demonstrated in this population of patients," said lead author Pasquale Perrone-Filardi, adding that the new data would not prompt him to "recommend statins for all older patients, but maybe for patients with hypertension or atherosclerosis."
The "problem is that age is one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease, so it's difficult to detect among a population of old people who are the patients at very high cardiovascular risk," he added.
Commenting on the study, American Heart Association spokesperson Gregg Fonarow told HealthDay that "statins have been proven to substantially reduce fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular events in individuals without known cardiovascular disease." As a result, statins represent a key component of physicians' efforts to improve cardiovascular health, he said (Reinberg, HealthDay, 8/28).