Should Adults Over 40 Take Preventive Statins?

Adults as young as 40--even if they've not had a heart attack or stroke--should consider taking low or moderate doses of cholesterol-lowering drugs as a preventive measure, according to a government-backed panel.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation aligns with heart health groups and many experts in the field, who note that statin drugs can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Specifically, the panel concluded that people ages 40 to 75, who have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and a 10 percent or greater risk of heart attack or stroke over the next decade, should take statins.

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease include high total cholesterol or triglycerides, high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.

It's the first time this panel is making a recommendation on the use of statins. It's based on analysis of existing data from 18 randomized controlled trials comparing statin use among people without previous heart attacks and strokes to people taking dummy pills or nothing at all.

Compared to people not on statin treatment, those using them had a 17 percent reduced risk of death from any cause, and a 36 percent reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease. People taking statins were also 28 percent less likely to have strokes, 37 percent less likely to have heart attacks and 31 percent less likely to have other cardiovascular problems.

The panel's report is consistent with 2013 recommendations from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology. Heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases killed almost 787,000 people in the U.S in 2011, according to the American Heart Association.

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Sourced from: Reuters Health, Government panel backs preventive statin use by adults 40 and over