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Scientists have said that more people over the age of 75 should take statins, as a result of a research review.
There was a lack of evidence on how cholesterol-lowering drugs are beneficial for this age group.
However, the review found that they reduced the risk of major cardiovascular disease at all ages studied, including those over 75 years old.
The researchers said that thousands of lives could be saved each year if more than one third of Britons over the age of 75 who take statins receive them.
They also said that it could improve the quality of life for many people.
Cardiovascular disease kills an estimated 150,000 people in the UK each year, two thirds of which occur in people over 75 years of age.
Statins reduce the formation of fatty plaques that block blood vessels, although reported adverse effects and frequency of prescription have been controversial.
Side effects are "massively compensated"
The review, which included 28 randomized controlled trials – often referred to as the "gold standard" – involving nearly 190,000 patients, found that statins reduced the risk of major cardiovascular disease in the Ages 55 and under age group. over 75 years old.
There were similar reductions in the risk of stroke and coronary stenting or bypass surgery.
The authors of the article stated that there is so far an "information gap" on the effectiveness of drugs for the elderly.
They estimate that about one-third of the 5.5 million residents of the United Kingdom over the age of 75 take a statin, while the "vast majority" of them comply with the guidelines. the head of the regulation of medicines concerning the prescription of the drug.
Professor Colin Baigent, one of the authors of the paper, said: "One of our problems is that very often doctors refuse to consider statin therapy in the elderly simply because that they are older, which is an attitude that prevents us from making use of the tools we have. "
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The researchers said that statins could help people avoid disability caused by cardiovascular disease
The benefits have been greatest in people who have ever had vascular disease. There was not enough data on people over 75 who had not had the benefit. The experts asked for more data to guide the prescription of these people.
However, the authors indicated that even a minimal risk reduction was significant because older people had a higher baseline risk for cardiovascular disease.
The more people reduced their low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, the study found.
A reduction of 1.0 mmol / L of LDL cholesterol decreased the risk of major vascular events by about a fifth and a major coronary event by a quarter when the results of all age groups were combined.
To put this in perspective, about 2.5% of 63 year olds with no history of vascular disease should have their first major vascular event per year, compared with 4% of 78 year olds.
A reduction of one-fifth of these risks would prevent the occurrence of the first major vascular events each year in 50 people aged 63 and 80 people aged 78 for every 10,000 people treated.
According to Professor Baigent, statins should be given to people over 75 with "normal" LDL cholesterol levels.
He added: "In many circumstances, the person can be very healthy, it can also avoid a stroke or heart attack by simply taking a cheap and safe tablet every day.
"It may be a choice they are ready to make, but for the moment, I feel we are not taking advantage of the opportunity to offer that."
& # 39; Reassuring & # 39;
The side effects of statins and their frequency of prescription are controversial, especially in healthy people.
Common side effects include muscle pain, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and digestive problems.
It is possible to reduce the level of cholesterol without medication by changing lifestyle, for example by reducing saturated fat and eating more fruits, vegetables and fiber.
According to Professor Baigent, the side effects of statin therapy, which we already know, have been largely offset by the side effects "both in the elderly and in the elderly."
And he also said that he did not call people to choose statins instead of changing exercise and lifestyle.
"I think it's not the one or the other," he added.
The Royal College of General Practitioners welcomed the research and said it was "particularly reassuring" to see evidence of statin benefit in people over 75 years of age.
Professor Martin Marshall, vice-president of the college, said some patients would not want to take long-term medication.
"But GPs are very well trained to prescribe and recommend drugs only if they believe that they will actually help the person sitting in front of them, based on their personal circumstances – and after a frank conversation about the risks and the potential benefits. "