Many more elderly people could benefit from drugs to prevent heart disease

July 12, 2012

More patients aged 75 and over should be prescribed drugs to help lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, a study published today in the British Medical Journal suggests.

The researchers argue that older people are being "largely ignored" by current guidance, yet as the population ages, greater use of these drugs could reduce disability and prolong healthy life expectancy.

Cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, and are the principal cause of death in the UK and around the world. Drugs that help to (antihypertensives) and (statins) are safe and effective, yet current guidelines for preventing cardiovascular disease focus only on people aged 40-74 years.

Previous studies focusing on patients with existing cardiovascular disease have also found that patients are less likely to receive the older they get, despite the fact that the risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases with age.

So a team of researchers from the University of Birmingham and the University of Oxford studied 36,679 patients aged 40 and over from 19 in the West Midlands, to establish whether age and sex impact on prescriptions for antihypertensives and statins. None of the patients had a history of cardiovascular disease at the start of the study.

Results show that the likelihood of using antihypertensive medication increased with every five years but started to decline after the age of 85. Patients aged 75 and over had the highest use overall (56%) and women were 10% more likely to be taking antihypertensives than men.

The likelihood of using statin medication also increased with every five years but decreased with every five years after the age of 75, although 23% of all patients aged 75 and over were taking statins. Those aged 70-74 had the highest use. Women aged between 65-69 and 75-79 were 5% more likely to be issued a prescription than men whilst men under the age of 60 were more likely to be issued a prescription.

A 2008 study has shown that antihypertensive treatment in those over 80 can reduce the . The evidence for statin treatment in the elderly is less clear because trials have not been conducted in this population, but the authors say that there is no evidence to suggest that prescribing statins in elderly patients causes any harm.

The authors conclude that the older population should not be ignored when prescribing drugs to prevent cardiovascular disease. They suggest that guidelines should be modified and future research should look at the use of statin therapy in people aged 80 or more and that treating those aged 75 and over with these drugs "could be an appropriate place to start".

Explore further: Stopping statin therapy increases risk of death for rheumatoid arthritis patients

More information: Impact of age and sex on primary preventative treatment for cardiovascular disease in the West Midlands, UK: cross sectional study, British Medical Journal.

Related Stories

Stopping statin therapy increases risk of death for rheumatoid arthritis patients

March 28, 2012
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who discontinue use of statin therapy are at increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and other causes. According to the findings of a population-based study now available ...

Statins appear associated with reduced risk of recurrent cardiovascular events in men, women

June 25, 2012
Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs appear to be associated with reduced risk of recurrent cardiovascular events in men and women, but do not appear to be associated with reduced all-cause mortality or stroke in women, according ...

Recommended for you

Laser device placed on the heart identifies insufficient oxygenation better than other measures

September 20, 2017
A new device can assess in real time whether the body's tissues are receiving enough oxygen and, placed on the heart, can predict cardiac arrest in critically ill heart patients, report researchers at Boston Children's Hospital ...

Metabolism switch signals end for healing hearts

September 19, 2017
Researchers have identified the process that shuts down the human heart's ability to heal itself, and are now searching for a drug to reverse it.

Beta blockers not needed after heart attack if other medications taken

September 18, 2017
A new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill finds beta blockers are not needed after a heart attack if heart-attack survivors are taking ACE inhibitors and statins. The study is the first to challenge ...

Which single behavior best prevents high blood pressure?

September 15, 2017
(HealthDay)—You probably already know that certain healthy lifestyle behaviors can reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, but is any one behavior more important than the others?

RESPECT trial shows closing a small hole in heart may protect against recurrent stroke

September 13, 2017
A device used to close a small hole in the heart may benefit certain stroke patients by providing an extra layer of protection for those facing years of ongoing stroke risk, according to the results of a large clinical trial ...

Study shows so-called 'healthy obesity' is harmful to cardiovascular health

September 11, 2017
Clinicians are being warned not to ignore the increased cardiovascular health risks of those who are classed as either 'healthy obese' or deemed to be 'normal weight' but have metabolic abnormalities such as diabetes.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.