Taking a cholesterol-lowering drug after a stroke or mini-stroke reduces an older person's risk of another stroke as much as it does in younger patients, according to a US study.

“Even though the majority of strokes and heart attacks occur in people who are 65 and older, studies have found that cholesterol-lowering drugs are not prescribed as often for older people as they are for younger people. These results show that using these drugs is just as beneficial for people who are 65 as they are for younger people,” said study author Seemant Chaturvedi, MD, of Wayne State University in Detroit.

The Study

The researchers looked at 4,731 people who had had a recent stroke or mini-stroke (transient ischemic attack or TIA), including 2,249 people age 65 and older and 2,482 people under age 65. In each group, about half the patients received the cholesterol-lowering drug atonacrutin (Lipitor), and about half received a placebo. The participants were then followed for an aver-age of 4.5 years.

Levels of 'bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol were reduced by an average of 61 points in the over-65 group taking atorvastatin and by an average of 59 points in the under-65 group. Stroke risk was reduced by 26% in the younger group and by 10% in the older group.

Age Not A Factor

“It's estimated that 20% of the US population will be 65 or older by 2010, so it's important to reduce the burden of strokes and other cerebrovascular diseases in this group. This is a step in that direction,' Dr. Chaturvedi said.

The study, supported by atorvastatin maker Pfizer Inc., was published in Neurology.

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