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Statins help elderly prevent heart attacks, study says

Cholesterol-lowering drugs, a mainstay of heart care for the middle-aged, also prevent heart attacks in elderly people, a large study concludes.

Statins are widely prescribed to people with even modestly elevated cholesterol levels, and the new results are likely to enlarge their use.

Many studies have looked at people in their 50s and 60s. The new research was intended to see if the drugs improve the quality of life of people in their 70s and beyond.

The results show statins reduced their risk of heart attacks and stroke by 15 percent during three years of treatment.

However, the study, known by the acronym PROSPER, found the drugs had no effect on Alzheimer's disease, as many had hoped they would.

"We believe that PROSPER is good news for senior citizens," said Dr. James Shepherd of the University of Glasgow. "The results remind us that treatment that currently applies to middle-aged individuals is equally applied to the elderly in our population."