Statins have been around for many years. Initially, their empirical use was met with skepticism as their benefits were not evident in all populations. But recently, a large study that followed thousands of participants observed that older individuals who discontinue their statin medications have a high risk of hospital admission due to adverse cardiac problems.
Statins are a class of medication that can lower blood cholesterol as long as they are taken every day. High levels of cholesterol are a well-known risk factor for heart disease and stroke. By lowering the level of cholesterol, statins reduce the risk of adverse cardiac events. Unfortunately, the benefits of statins in older people has always been questioned until recently.
Researchers from Pitie Salpetriere Hospital in Paris joined other specialists to determine if discontinuation of statins in healthy individuals over the age of 75 had any repercussions. The study results are published in the European Heart Journal.
In their study, the researchers evaluated the medical information on over 120,000 participants residing in France. All the participants were 75 and older, and none of them had a history of heart disease. In addition, all of them had been taking statin medications daily for the past 2 years, before they were enrolled in the study.
The researchers followed the participants for four years, with an average follow up of 2.4 years. During the follow-up, the researchers noted that about 14.3% (17,200 individuals) had discontinued the statin for a minimum of 3 months. Among these individuals, nearly 4.5% or 5,496 participants required hospital admission for a heart-related problem. Overall, it became clear that individuals who stopped taking the statin had a 33% increase in the risk of requiring hospital admission for a heart-related problem. More specifically, older participants who stopped the stain had a much higher risk of developing a heart problem or a stroke.
Based on this study, the researchers recommend that seniors, even though healthy, should not discontinue statins. In fact, they recommend that doctors should encourage patients to take stains as a way of preventing adverse heart events.
Unfortunately, this is only an observational study, and it is not known how the relationship between heart problems and discontinuation of statins is correlated. Only a double-blind study will be able to tell if this relationship holds true.