Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Personal Health: On Statins and Walking Aids

Published on Monday, July 6, 2009 in THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER.

Likely benefits to prescribing statins to curb heart disease

Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, the standard of care for people with heart disease, may also benefit many patients who are merely at risk of developing the disease, researchers report in a review of 10 previous studies involving 70,000 people worldwide.

Prescribing statins as a preventive measure to patients with risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure was associated with a 30 percent drop in major heart disease and a 12 percent drop in deaths over an average of four years, researchers said on bmj.com, an online British medical journal.

Statins are powerful drugs, and the researchers - several of whom reported support in the past from manufacturers - stopped short of recommending their use for all people at risk of developing heart disease.

While men over 65 who have other risk factors and older women with diabetes and other risk factors appear to be most in danger of developing heart disease, they write, "the correct identification of such people remains a challenge," as does prediction of an individual's risk. - Heather J. Chin

Study of falls suggests need to teach safer use of walkers

More than 47,000 older Americans a year - 129 a day - seek treatment at hospitals after falls involving walkers or canes, according to a six-year review of ER records that suggests more time should be spent teaching people how to use walking aids.

Falls are the leading cause of injuries in people over 65. Less than 3 percent involve walking aids, but the researchers, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said they were the frailest and most vulnerable population. And while twice as many older people use canes than use walkers, the researchers found seven times as many injuries associated with walkers.

Fractures were the most common type of injury. Men injured their head and neck most frequently, while women hit their hip or pelvis. Women, who are more likely to use walkers, made up 77 percent of all falls examined.

The goal now, the authors write in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, is to identify potential risk factors that lead to falls, to design better walking aids, and to provide education on safe usage. Information about falls and how to prevent them: http://go.philly.com/health. - Heather J. Chin

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