Older people who stop taking their cholesterol-burning statins after turning 75 are at 50% more likely to have a heart attack.
- A study followed the health and statin use of 120,000 people in France
- People who took the pills in their early 70s but stopped, endangered their health
- The cholesterol-lowering pills are the most commonly prescribed drug in the UK
Elderly people who stop taking statins in their seventies run a 50 percent greater risk of heart attack, a study shows.
Researchers discovered that people who stopped taking the cholesterol-lowering pills at the age of 75 saw an increase in their risk of heart problems.
Studies on whether statins actually work have been plentiful, but the scientists claim that theirs is the first to look at the effect of stopping them in old age.
They looked at otherwise healthy people who had taken the pills to prevent heart problems or strokes.
Millions of people in the UK use statins, the drug most commonly prescribed by NHS, and about 170,000 people die every year due to heart problems.
A study of more than 120,000 people in France found that otherwise healthy patients who had used statins in their early 70s were more likely to have a heart attack or stroke if they stopped taking the medication at the age of 75 (stock image)
Since 2014, NHS guidelines have said that all over-75s – even those who are healthy – should be eligible for statins.
But of the 5.5 million people in this age group, only 1.5 million – about a third of eligible people – actually take them.
Scientists led by the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, France, conducted a study of 120,000 people in France who were 75 years old between 2012 and 2014.
They had all taken statins during the two years preceding that age, and one in seven stopped taking the medication during the study.
Those who stopped were 33 percent more likely to have any type of heart-related health problems afterwards – 5,396 people were hospitalized during the study period.
Statin stops were 46 percent more likely to have a heart attack or cardiac arrest and 26 percent more likely to have a stroke.
WHY ARE STATINS CONTROVERSIAL?
Statins are the most prescribed drug in the world and an estimated 30 percent of all adults over 40 are eligible to take them.
The cholesterol-lowering drugs are given to people who are believed to have a 10 percent or higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease or heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years.
They have proven to help people who have had heart problems in the past, but experts say the thresholds can be too high, meaning that benefits for many people outweigh the side effects.
Almost all men exceed the 10 percent threshold at the age of 65, and all women do so at the age of 70 – regardless of their health.
Commonly reported side effects are headache, muscle aches and nausea, and statins can also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, hepatitis, pancreatitis, and vision problems or memory loss.
Research published in the Pharmaceutical Journal last year showed that taking a statin every day for five years after a heart attack prolongs your life by just four days, new research shows.
And dr. Rita Redberg, professor at the University of California, San Francisco told CNN in January that out of 100 people who use statins for five years without having had a heart attack or stroke, & # 39; the best estimates are that one or two people have a heart will avoid attacks and no one will live longer by taking statins. & # 39;
& # 39; We estimate that an additional 2.5 cardiovascular events per 100 people would occur within four years for those who stopped taking their statins at the age of 75 compared to those who continued to take their statins, & # 39; said Dr. Philippe Giral.
Statins work by blocking cholesterol production and helping the body absorb it from the blood to prevent it from clogging blood vessels.
Experts have called on patients over the age of 75 to prescribe medication, but many people suffer from side effects, including headache, cold-like symptoms, and muscle and joint pain.
The NHS said that patients prescribed statins should usually stay with them because their cholesterol will rise again when they stop.
And dr. Giral said that patients should not stop taking their statins if they use the drugs at 75.
& # 39; We would say to patients that if you regularly use high cholesterol statins, we recommend that you do not stop treatment when you are 75, & # 39; he added.
& # 39; For doctors, we recommend that you do not stop the statin treatment given for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in your 75-year-old patients. & # 39;
Dr. Giral and his team said their research could not prove that stopping statins was the cause of people having poor heart health afterwards, just that there was a connection.
The research contributes to past work that has shown that unhealthy patients also run a significantly higher risk of dying if they do not take their pills.
A study by Stanford University in California found that people who took their statins only half the time were 30 percent more likely to die in a given year than a patient taking them 90 percent of the time.
And this risk increases even more for people who stop taking them all the way. Experts called the research & # 39; powerful & # 39; and & # 39; impressive & # 39 ;.
"Although statins are among the most effective drugs for the secondary prevention of (heart disease), low compliance is a common problem," the study said.
& # 39; Low therapy compliance (is) associated with higher cholesterol levels and higher rates of hospitalization due to stroke and ischemic disease. & # 39;
The findings of the French team were published in the European Heart Journal.
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