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Taking statins when you're over 75

Even among the pro-statin camp there’s been uncertainty about the use of statins for people over 75. This month the authors of a new paper claim that in Britain up to 8000 deaths a year could be prevented if everyone in that age bracket took them. Needless to say not everyone agrees.

Two big medical journals, The Lancet and the British Medical Journal, have been arguing about this since 2013. The Lancet has published papers that support the widespread use of statins and the BMJ has questioned the validity of their claims. In the British tabloid press it’s called the ‘statin wars’.

This month it was The Lancet’s turn when it published research that analysed data from 28 trials and concluded that age is no barrier to taking statins. 

Critics of the paper point to the funding that the authors receive from pharmaceutical companies and argue that these latest results have been manipulated. 

Statins work because they’re anti-inflammatory and make blood less thick and sticky, i.e. less tomato sauce-like. But they can also have unpleasant side-effects, such as headaches and muscle pain.

American cardiologist Stephen Sinatra differentiates between the use of statins for men and for women. 

He recommends them in men aged 50 to 75 if they have advanced heart disease. But not after age 75 because he’s concerned about their effect on the central nervous system and memory. 

He also prescribes statins for women who have heart disease, especially if they have diabetes, high levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation), or if their condition is worsening. He notes though that statins seem to be more effective in men. 

In addition, he ensures that these patients take at least 200 mg of CoQ10, because statins deplete it. CoQ10 is a biochemical that’s vital to heart health. He says the lack of energy that we often associate with ageing can just be a lack of CoQ10.

Unfortunately, most statin research doesn’t consider gender differences or try to tease out where and how they’re best used.

While statins can clearly play a useful role, it’s hard to see that there’s a strong case for medicating everyone over 75, regardless of their risk of heart disease. And especially when there’s so much dispute over the data being used to make that case.

Photo Source: Bigstock

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Monday, February 25, 2019 | Rhonda Anderson