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One in four Americans over age 45 take the cholesterol-lowering drugs collectively known as statins. Recently, some researchers have worried that these drugs could increase diabetes risk, especially among post-menopausal women or people taking high statin doses. But a large new analysis shows that the cardiovascular benefits of statins outweigh diabetes concerns, even for high-risk groups.

“The increase in risk of diabetes associated with statin therapy seems limited to patients with major risk factors for diabetes,” said lead researcher Paul Ridker, a doctor at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s hospital.

In a study published in The Lancet, Ridker and colleagues report that among people not already at risk for developing diabetes, statins led to a 52 percent reduction in heart disease while presenting no increase in diabetes risk.

When we focus only on the risk (of diabetes) we may be doing a disservice to our patients,” Ridker told USA Today. “As it turns out for this data, the hazard of being on a statin is limited almost entirely to those well on their way to getting diabetes.”

Even for those “well on their way” to diabetes, statins could still prove worth it. Among patients with one or more diabetes risk factors (metabolic syndrome, impaired fasting glucose, obesity or high blood levels of glycosylated hemoglobin), statins prevented 134 “cardiovascular events or deaths” for every 54 cases of new-onset diabetes. Those taking statins were 39 percent less likely to develop heart disease and 17 percent less likely to die that similar patients who were not.

Friday Quick Hits:

  • ADHD in older adults. Most people associate attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with unruly elementary-school children. But a new Dutch study shows the disorder doesn’t disappear with age, and in fact affects around 3 percent of adults 60 and older.
  • Billy Crystal writing book on aging. The 64-year-old actor is penning a book that will be part memoir, part humorous meditation on getting older. “There are 77 million of us baby boomers in the country and this book will speak to them and how we look at the world,” Crystal said.
  • CPR less successful with age. On television, people whose hearts stop are saved by CPR all the time. But the odds of successful CPR in the real world, especially for older adults, aren’t as good. One study found a 10 percent CPR success rate for patients in their 40s and 50s; this dropped to 8.1 percent for patients in their 60s, 7.1 percent for those in their 70s and 3.3 percent after 80. Another study found a 9.4 percent success rate among octogenarians and 4.4 percent among nonagenarians.

Photo: Andrew Bret Wallis/Getty Images

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