Statins, a class of cholesterol-lowering medication, are one of the most widely used drugs in Canada. While as many as one in 10 Canadians take a daily statin medication, the Canadian Cardiovascular Society’s guideline suggests that this number should be closer to one in four. This 25 per cent of the population is indeed a large portion of Canadians, but it is worth noting that it would include almost all people aged 75 and older.
Despite the widespread use of statins, new evidence suggests that healthy elderly people aren’t actually being benefited by taking these medications. This new research published in the Journal BMJ on Sept. 5, followed 46,864 people aged 75 years or older with no history of cardiovascular disease between 2006 and 2015.
The results of the study showed that, for the people 75 years of age and older who haven’t had a heart attack or stroke, are unlikely to benefit from taking a statin medication, unless they have diabetes. The people taking a statin medication didn’t live longer on average compared to those who didn’t take a statin over the course of the study.
However, the results did show that diabetics aged 75 to 84 without cardiovascular disease lived longer on average if they took a statin. At age 85 and beyond, the benefit of the stain medication weakened to the point where at age 90 and beyond, statins didn’t provide any benefit on longevity.
The authors of the study concluded that statins should not be given in a widespread manner (as current guidelines recommend) to people aged 75 and older. They did recommend that diabetics aged 75 to 84 could still be treated with statins in order to protect against cardiovascular disease and extend their lives.
Considering potential adverse effects of statin medications, including muscle damage and liver injury, statins are certainly not a one-size-fits-all medication for prevention of cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle modification such as eating a diet high in fibre, rich in fruit and vegetables and low in processed foods, as well as regular exercise, is always a good choice for prevention of cardiovascular disease and health promotion in general.
Do you have questions about prevention of cardiovascular disease or living a long, healthy life in general? Ask your naturopathic doctor.