The study found a 33 per cent increased risk of any cardiovascular event for those who discontinued their statins. Photo: iStock

Discontinuing statins after the age of 75 years increases the risk of heart attack or stroke by around a third, according to a recent study.

The population-based cohort study, published in the European Heart Journal, analyses the role of statin therapy in primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases and is based on the French national healthcare databases.

The researchers followed 120,173 individuals aged 75 years between 2012 and 2014, who had been taking the pills at least 80 per cent of the time in the previous two years for primary prevention.

During the follow-up period, 17,204 people (14.3 per cent of the sample) discontinued statins, of which 5,396 were admitted for a cardiovascular problem.

The study found a 33 per cent increased risk of any cardiovascular event for those who discontinued their pills.

However, the researchers pointed out that it is an observational, retrospective, non-randomised study and it can not show discontinuation of the pills can cause a heart attack.

“Concern has been raised about the benefits of statins in older people. This study, although observational, adds to a growing body of evidence showing that statins reduce heart attacks and strokes in older people, as they do in younger people, and are safe,” said Professor Nilesh Samani, medical director, British Heart Foundation.

“Age should not be a barrier to prescribing these potentially life-saving drugs to those people who are likely to benefit.”

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