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Ample evidence supports the use of statin therapy for secondary prevention in patients with a history of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), but evidence is wanting in the case of primary prevention, low-risk individuals, and elderly adults 65+. Statins are effective in lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which has long been a target for treatment decisions. We discuss the weakening dependence between cholesterol levels and mortality as a function of age and highlight recent findings on lipoprotein subfractions and other superior markers of ASCVD risk. The efficacy of statins is compared for distinct subsets of patients based on age, diabetes, ASCVD, and coronary artery calcium (CAC) status. Most cardiovascular risk calculators heavily weight age and overestimate one’s absolute risk of ASCVD, particularly in very old adults. Improvements in risk assessment enable the identification of specific patient populations that benefit most from statin treatment. Derisking is particularly important for adults over 75, in whom treatment benefits are reduced and adverse musculoskeletal effects are amplified. The CAC score stratifies the benefit effect size obtainable with statins, and forms of coenzyme Q are discussed for improving patient outcomes. Robust risk estimator tools and personalized, evidence-based approaches are needed to optimally reduce cardiovascular events and mortality rates through administration of cholesterol-lowering medications.


Originally published: White, A.M.B., H.R. Mishcon, J.L. Redwanski and R.D. Hills Jr. 2020. Statin treatment in specific patient groups: Role for improved cardiovascular risk markers. Journal of Clinical Medicine 9:3748. doi: 10.3390/jcm9113748

Authors White and Mishcon conducted this research as University of New England students.

© 2020 by the authors. Original publication licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (



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