Cardiovascular disease claims more lives each year than any other cause. Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have some type of cardiovascular disease, defined as coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke or high blood pressure. While these conditions hit the elderly the hardest, many doctors are hesitant to prescribe risk-reducing drugs called statins to anyone over 75 because there is limited evidence that they help the elderly.
Now, an international group of researchers who have been studying statins since 1995 have shown the drugs benefit people of all ages, including most people over 75.
The scientists looked at 30 studies of statin therapy that involved more than 185,000 people with an average age of 63. Almost 15,000 were over 75. They found statin therapy cut the risk of major vascular events for all ages, including in those over 75.
Statins block a liver enzyme that produces cholesterol. While the body needs cholesterol to create hormones and to digest food, the liver makes all that the body needs. When people eat saturated fat or trans fats in baked goods or fried and processed foods, they get an overload of cholesterol that backs up in the arteries and creates plaques that hinder blood flow. This can lead to strokes, heart attacks and heart disease.
Statins lower the LDL, or bad cholesterol, and triglycerides while raising the HDL or good cholesterol that helps the liver remove excess cholesterol from the body.
More statin use could prevent thousands of deaths worldwide, the researchers said, adding that the benefits outweigh the risks in elderly patients, who may be more prone to possible side effects of the medication.