Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may benefit people over age 75 as much as their younger counterparts, according to a recent analysis of 28 clinical trials, published in the Lancet.
Because this age group has been underrepresented in statin studies for primary prevention (that is, for people who have not had a previous heart attack or stroke), there have been questions about the benefits, but this analysis included more than 14,000 people over 75. It found that statins reduced cardiovascular events similarly for all age groups, by about one-fifth for each 40-point drop in LDL ("bad") cholesterol. In absolute numbers, the benefit is greater for older people, since cardiovascular risk rises with age.
For example, for primary prevention, about 200 people age 63 would have to take a statin for a year to avert one major cardiovascular event, while only about 125 people age 78 would have to be treated, according to the researchers. For people who have had a prior cardiovascular event, the risk reduction would be even greater.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see Adverse Effects of Statins: What to Do.