Age a Nonissue for Lowering Cholesterol

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Studies have shown that there is no age limit to the benefits of taking statins. Because early statin trials included few participants over age 75, researchers have tried to include a broader age group in recent studies.

The 5-year British Heart Protection Study had more than 5000 participants over age 70. The results of that study suggested that those who took simvastatin, compared with those who took a placebo, were 25% less likely to have died or had a heart attack or stroke. The Prospective Study of Pravastatin in the Elderly at Risk included individuals 70 to 82 years old. Within 3 years, significantly fewer participants taking prava-statin had a heart attack or stroke or died.

Studies encompassing broader age groups have produced similar results. In the ongoing Cardiovascular Health Study of 5200 men and women in 4 US communities, participants who took a statin during 3 years of follow-up were 50% as likely to have had a heart attack or stroke or to have died of cardiovascular disease, compared with those who did not. The drug offered the same protection to people over age 75 as to the younger members of the group. Finally, doctors at a Salt Lake City hospital followed the survival of 7000 men and women, 19 to 97 years old, diagnosed with 1 or more clogged or blocked coronary arteries. Among participants 80 years and older, 8.5% of those who took a statin died in the 3 years following their diagnosis, compared with 29.5% who did not take a drug of that class.