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Statins have been known to help people stay heart healthy. Drs Producoes/Getty Images
  • A new study finds even people over age 75 can get heart benefits from statins.
  • Previously most clinical trials evaluating statins have not included people in this age group.
  • Many major heart organizations, including the American Heart Association, recently suggested that doctors conduct personalized risk assessments with older patients to determine if statins should be used.

Statins appear to be effective at preventing cardiovascular disease, also known as heart disease, and death in older adults, a new study has found.

Clinical guidance recommends using statins to lower lipid profiles and prevent heart disease, however, most clinical trials evaluating statins have not included people 75 and older.

As a result, it’s been unclear if statins should be used in this older population, a question that is particularly important as more people are living past 75.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force currently states there’s insufficient evidence to assess the risks and benefits of statins in people 76 and older.

Many major heart organizations, including the American Heart Association, recently suggested that doctors conduct personalized risk assessments with older patients to determine if statins should be used.

The report, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine Monday, demonstrates that statins may help safely and effectively lower the risk of heart disease and death in adults 76 and up.

“These findings will potentially reduce the hesitancy of many physicians to start statin therapy in patients over 75 and may even lead to a change in how our statin guidelines address these older patients,” Cheng-Han Chen, MD, a board-certified interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Program at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, CA, told Healthline.

To better understand statin use in older adults, the researchers evaluated the health records of adults over 60 who had not previously been diagnosed with heart disease but met indications to start taking statins.

The participants were split into three groups: People between the ages of 60 and 74, 75 to 84, and 85 and older.

The research team identified the individuals who started statins along with those who did not take statins.

They also tracked who experienced a major cardiac event, such as a stroke, heart failure, or myocardial infarction, who died, and who experienced an adverse event like liver dysfunction or myopathies.

All age groups benefited from taking statins.

Even in the oldest group, age 85 and older, statin use was linked to a lower incidence of heart disease and all-cause mortality.

Additionally, statins did not appear to increase the risk of adverse events in older adults.

The findings “suggested there is still cardiovascular benefits in patients older than 75 years of age,” Joyce Oen-Hsiao, MD, a Yale Medicine cardiologist and associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at Yale School of Medicine, said.

According to the researchers, the findings indicate that older adults may greatly benefit from taking statins.

Prior evidence suggests statins improve lipid profiles, lower inflammation, and fight oxidative stress.

As a result, the medication may prevent the development of atherosclerosis, which is a build-up of plaque in the arteries, and heart disease.

“By stabilizing these plaques, they reduce the chance that the plaques can cause a heart attack or stroke,” explains Chen.

Most statin clinical trials haven’t included patients over the age of 75, which has led to uncertainty about if and when to use statins in this age group.

“We could infer that there would be a cardiovascular benefit, but there was no actual data,” says Oen-Hsiao.

As a result, some doctors discontinue statins in older adults, according to Oen-Hsiao.

Because of our aging population, it’s important to understand if the beneficial effects of statins extend to the elderly, Chen said.

“These results certainly support starting statins in patients over 75 who are at elevated risk of developing cardiovascular disease,” he said.

More research is needed to better understand the effects of statins in older adults and confirm the results.

“To have randomized controlled trials to show the continued benefit of statins in the older population is important,” Oen-Hsiao said. “I am not surprised at this data, and look forward to further research to confirm the results,”

Statins appear to be effective at preventing cardiovascular disease and death in older adults, according to new research. Most clinical trials evaluating statins have not included people 75 and older, and it’s been unclear if statins should be used in this age group. The findings suggest the medication can safely and effectively prevent heart disease in older adults.