Cholesterol-lowering drugs may help prevent recurrent strokes in young people


New research indicates statins may help prevent future strokes among young people who have already had a stroke. Neurology published the study in its 2 August 2011 issue.

“Because the cause of stroke in young people can be hard to identify, cholesterol-lowering drugs are often not used to prevent further strokes or vascular problems,” said study author Jukka Putaala, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Finland. “This study suggests that the drugs should be considered even when the cause of the stroke is unknown and the cholesterol levels are not high.”

Medical records of 215 people between the ages of 15 and 49 who experienced a first ischaemic stroke were analised and then followed for an average of nine years.

The results showed that 33% of the patients used a statin at some time during follow-up. These patients were likely to be older, have a poorer lipid profile, and have hypertension. Twenty per cent of events occurred among the 143 patients who never took a statin, none among the 36 with continuous statin, and 1% among the 36 with discontinuous statin. In a Cox proportional hazards analysis adjusted for age, sex, dyslipidemia, hypertension, antihypertensive medication, stroke year, and propensity score, patients on a statin at any time during follow-up were less likely to experience outcome events (hazard ratio 0.23, 95% confidence interval 0.08–0.66; p = 0.006).

The study found that those who were treated with a statin at any time after the stroke were 77% less likely to experience another stroke or vascular problems compared to those not treated with a statin at all. The results were the same after adjusting for factors such as age, high blood pressure, and taking high blood pressure medication.

“While the study may be limited by the small number of people who were treated with a statin, at the very least, young adults who have experienced a stroke for unknown reasons should be considered for treatment with cholesterol-lowering drugs,” said Putaala.

The study was supported by the Helsinki University Central Hospital, the Finnish Medical Foundation, the Finnish Brain Foundation and the Emil Aaltonen Foundation.