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Cholesterol drugs "cut stroke risk"

Researchers have found the risk of strokes can be cut by a fifth by taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The results from 24 studies involving more than 165,000 patients show that stroke risk fell by 21% for each one millimole per litre decrease in the level of "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood.

Researchers led by Dr Pierre Amarenco, from Paris-Diderot University in France, identified that cholesterol-reducing statins reduced the overall risk of stroke as well as the progression of blockages in the carotid arteries, which carry blood to the brain.

One of the studies found a 16% reduction in the risk of recurrent strokes through the use of statins, but previous research only suggested an inconsistent link between cholesterol levels and stroke risk.

Writing in The Lancet Neurology journal, the researchers said: "Lipid (blood fat) lowering with statins is effective in reducing both initial and recurrent stroke.

"Because this effect seems to be associated with the extent of LDL cholesterol reduction, the next step is to assess the effectiveness and safety of further reductions in LDL cholesterol after a stroke."

The authors also suggest that increasing the amount of "good" cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in the blood could also help reduce the risk of stroke.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

The Lancet Neurology

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"Good news. This research should be mentioned in the media for those non-compliant patients, as will be an encouragement for them" - V Henry