Statins Can Reduce Risk of a Heart Attack for Adults of All Ages

Not all of us.

“Statins should not be used in everyone, whether middle-aged or elderly,” said Grundy. “Treatment requires good clinical judgment by a qualified physician.”

It’s important to distinguish between secondary and primary prevention with statins, Grundy noted.

“Secondary prevention” means giving statins to people who already have heart disease. “The results of the current study speak mainly to secondary prevention, where statin therapy in older people is shown to be beneficial,” Grundy said.

“Primary prevention,” on the other hand, means treating people who may be at risk for heart disease in the future, but who aren’t currently showing any evidence of the disease.

Statins have already proven to be beneficial for middle-age people at risk, and this study underscores that fact.

When you’re younger, any plaques beginning to develop in your arteries are still immature. Statins don’t have a magic ability to clean them out.

“They’re not Drano,” noted Greenfield, “but they can stabilize the plaques so they don’t rupture.”

On the other hand, if you’ve had plaques in your arteries for decades, they’re likely to be firmer and more solid — and less reversible.

If doctors treated people earlier, Greenfield added, “maybe we wouldn’t be on so many medicines later on in life. If we can stop these processes in their early phase, that’s a great insurance policy.”

More studies need to be done to prove how effective statins are as a primary prevention for the older demographic. “The current study shows a trend for benefit, but did not give a conclusive result,” Grundy said.

Because of that, it’s up to a doctor to decide whether to start an older person on statins who appears to be at risk.

According to Grundy, “Most experts would favor continuing statin treatment as a middle-age person slips into the elderly period.”

“Age is just a number,” agreed Greenfield. “If someone is vital, alert, and has the will to live and enjoy life, they want to be healthy, too. Statins could clearly be a way that makes that happen.”

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