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    Nov 26, 2014

    US study pushes statin use for healthy seniors


    NEARLY everyone aged 66 to 75 should consider taking cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins to reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke, new guidelines published on Monday said.

    A total of 97 per cent of people in the age group, and 100 per cent of men, should be on the medication even if their cholesterol levels are normal, according to a study published in Jama Internal Medicine, a journal of the American Medical Association.

    The research is based on controversial recommendations made late last year by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, which called for more adults without heart disease to take medication to prevent future health problems.

    The guidelines "are a significant change from prior guidelines that relied heavily on levels of bad cholesterol to determine who to treat", said lead author Michael Miedema, a cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute.

    The new guidelines recommend statins - such as Lipitor - not only for all people with cardiovascular disease, diabetes or high levels of bad cholesterol, but also for healthy adults whose risk of heart attack or stroke is more than 7.5 per cent over the next 10 years.

    Age, gender, race and risk factors were all taken into account in the risk calculator.

    "Older individuals will likely cross the 7.5 per cent threshold based on age alone, even if they have normal cholesterol levels and no other cardiovascular risk factors," Dr Miedema said.

    The study, which involved more than 6,000 Americans aged 66 to 90, did not provide a recommendation for people older than 75, who accounted for more than half of the study group.

    "We don't have great data on the efficacy of statin medications in the elderly, so the guidelines drew a cut-off for the recommendations at age 75," Dr Miedema said, emphasising that research was needed for the age group.